Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is on his second head-coaching stint since he ‘retired’ after the 2012 season. And this latest one comes after he actually retired. Now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after spending a few years as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach, Arians has been known over the years as an advocate and ambassador for the game.
One of the tasks he has set himself out on is to plead the game’s case in the eyes of women—generally, often mothers in defending the virtues of football at the youth level. But he is also bringing in that spirit to his latest coaching staff.
The Buccaneers just became the first organization in NFL history to employ two women to their coaching staff, hiring Maral Javadifar as an assistant strength and conditioning coach, in addition to Lori Locust as assistant defensive line coach.
Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic, where she covered Arians with the Cardinals, recently caught up with him at an event for his charity. There, she quoted him as saying, “my hope is that, pretty soon, it won’t be news” for NFL teams to hire women to coaching positions.
Chris Arians, BA’s wife, added:
“He was talking one time about an internship, &I said, ‘Aw, babe. C’mon. We don’t need more internships.’ Like, ‘Oh, yeah, cmon little lady, hang with us for a year, and then we’re gonna let you go.’ No! Find someone qualified to coach &hire them.”
— katherine fitzgerald (@kfitz134) March 23, 2019
“That’s the goal”, he went on. “It’s not news anymore. It will be just quality people getting hired into positions that they can do”. Arians is certainly not the first team to employ a woman, and there are several currently around the league, but it still remains a rarity.
“I feel a responsibility to be diverse and have inclusion with everybody”, Arians added. Fitzgerald also spoke with his wife, who indicated that she helped to persuade him to find full-time candidates rather than simply interns. “We don’t need more internships”, she said. “Find someone qualified to coach and hire them”.
Hire them he did. While Javadifar has an extensive background outside of football in the physical therapy field, Locust is somebody with whom Arians has been acquainted since he was the head coach at Temple University in the mid- to late 80s.
The latter had previously served in the offseason as a coaching intern for the Baltimore Ravens for the past two seasons, and she was also working with the Birmingham Iron in the Alliance of American Football, where she was working with former Pittsburgh Steelers players Casey Sayles, and Johnny Maxey.
The Steelers were the first NFL franchise to hire a woman as a full-time staff member in bringing Ariko Iso in 2002 as an assistant athletic trainer. She served in that role through 2011. The team currently employs Sonia Ruef as an assistant athletic trainer, and has since Iso’s departure to become the head athletic trainer at Oregon State.