Phoebe Schecter: Britain's first female NFL coach charts her rapid rise to the top of the sport
Phoebe Schecter interned with the Buffalo Bills from 2018-2019, while she is also the captain of the GB women's team, a flag football ambassador and a broadcaster; "I very much felt like I couldn't put a foot wrong... sending the elevator back down [for other women] was massive"
Last Updated: 16/12/22 12:33pm
Phoebe Schecter is a former NFL coach - Britain's first female coach in the sport - she is the captain of the GB women's team, a flag football ambassador and now a broadcaster with Sky Sports and talkSPORT.
With so many strings to her bow, it would be easy to think Schecter has it all figured out and that her pathway to this point was all part of a meticulously prepped plan. It wasn't.
"I'm trying to figure out who I am still," Schecter told Sky Sports on the Her Huddle podcast (listen below). "Every day, I feel like I'm taking another step."
Specifically, her first steps into American Football came surprisingly late and in the strangest of circumstances when, 11 years ago, at the age of 22, Schecter first moved to the UK - to follow her first great passion, horses.
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"It still makes no sense to me," Schecter said. "I got a job working for a gentleman on the Dutch Olympic team for three-day eventing.
"He was based over here, in Cheshire, and it was probably about two months after moving that I saw an ad on social media for American Football in Manchester.
"When you're out of your comfort zone, you're so much more willing to take risks. I'd never played contact sport before, knew nothing about American Football but I was looking for a way to make friends and get a bit of American culture.
"I had to move miles and miles away to another country to fall in love with the sport."
'I was like a deer in the headlights'
From such a rather surprising introduction to the game, it quickly took hold of Schecter and ultimately catapulted her to a two-year stint as a coaching intern with the Buffalo Bills in the NFL.
"A lot of it was dedication", explained Schecter of her rapid rise to elite sports coaching.
"Once I found American Football, it was a case of 'I love this, I'm so passionate about this', how do I make this my career and how do I make this my career and be as close to it as I can be?
"It has been a lot of studying, a lot of work behind the scenes. I look at my first training camp and I didn't know anything. I was like a deer in the headlights essentially."
Recalling one such moment, in particular, Schecter said: "I'll never forget my first week at training camp. You don't get much time to eat, so I'd always go for a shake, an easy, filling thing. And I remember they had these annoying Styrofoam cups; I kept trying to push the lid on and the thing exploded everywhere, all over me.
"Tyrod Taylor was our quarterback then, and it also ended up all over him. It was like 6.15am and the two of us were there cleaning all of this slop up. I was mortified."
'I felt like I couldn't put a foot wrong'
It was precisely the type of slip up that Schecter, incorrectly, felt that she couldn't make as a woman in the male-dominated environment of the NFL.
"At that time, I very much felt like I couldn't put a foot wrong," she said. "That I needed to be going over and above everything - in a way because I felt like I was one of the first [women].
"I wanted others to have opportunities after. Sending the elevator back down was massive, as I wanted to make sure that, no matter what happened, someone would be able to come in and replace me eventually.
"But the barriers were never something that other people put on me. They were always something I placed upon myself."
What helped Schecter grow in the role was Buffalo's rookie draft class of 2018, which included superstar quarterback Josh Allen, and Tremaine Edwards, as well as young, mouldable talents like Tre'Davious White and Dion Dawkins heading into only their second year with the team.
"It's a great organisation [the Bills]," she added. "And look at my rookie class - Allen, White, Dawkins, Edwards - down the road, that ended up almost being my anchor in the sense of we were all rookies, growing together.
"As I grew more confident in myself and my role, it was about recognising what value you bring to the team. For me, it was about understanding that my value didn't have to be Xs and Os.
"I'm someone who has great inter-personal skills, I'll bring you consistency, positive energy - all of the things you need when you're potentially 4-6 halfway through the season, or whatever that looks like.
"People can trust me and that played a big role into me understanding my value and truly believing in myself."
'You have the ability to change people's lives'
So what next for Schecter? She freely admits she loves her new role as a broadcaster, saying "I'm loving the analytics, being able to study the game with people", but she also retains her passion to coach.
"I love coaching," she said. "It will never be replaced in my heart, because you have the ability to change people's lives and watch them grow and develop over a period of time."
As for her own journey and advice for anyone potentially keen to follow in her footsteps, Schecter urges people to "just go out and take a chance", much in the same way a certain 22-year old did when moving thousands of miles away to work with horses.
"I hope that I can help influence people, whatever that means. At the end of the day, I am just an average person," she said.
"I've done this, but it doesn't mean that someone else couldn't. It's just about the steps that you chose to take as an individual.
"I changed my life at the age of 22 when I moved over to this country. I took a risk.
"Sometimes we get so stuck in our ways that we don't want to push ourselves. There is not straight line to success - you may have to drop down or move sideways - but on the other side of that, it's so beautiful and so worthwhile."