When the Dartmouth College Big Green football team kicks off its season next month, the players will have new insights from a pair of additions to their training camp.
Callie Brownson and Chenell Tillman-Brooks are coaching interns for the first two weeks of Dartmouth’s pre-season, and both are women.
“Being here just validates what I already know and then just puts more under my belt for what I don’t know,” said Tillman-Brooks, one of the interns.
While women have made real strides in coaching youth football in recent years, they’re still quite rare on coaching staffs at the college and professional levels.
Internships like the program now underway on the Hanover, New Hampshire campus could start to turn that around.
“If you know football, you know football,” observed Dartmouth running back Rashaad Cooper, describing how he welcomed the women into the Dartmouth program because of their demonstrated knowledge of the sport.
Brownson and Tillman-Brooks both have experience in women’s football leagues and have coached boys’ high school and youth teams in Virginia and Texas.
They said they’re hoping to gain extra knowledge during their time at the Ivy League school, preparing them to reach higher in the sport.
“I hope we get there pretty soon,” Brownson said in response to a question from NBC10 Boston and necn about whether she envisions a time when women are less rare on football teams’ coaching staffs. “And I think that’s what we’re working towards. I think it’s about normalizing the culture and eventually not having it be newsworthy, so it’s just another hire—another addition to a staff.”
NCAA rules on the size of coaching staffs do put some limits on what the women can do with the squad while on the field, but they still have a lot of responsibilities, including organizing drills and breaking down game film.
“I think it’s great they’re getting experience from us, but we’re also getting a lot out of them, too, so it’s really a win-win,” said Dartmouth College defensive lineman David Chalmers.
The program was the idea of Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, who met the women at a football clinic on passing techniques.
Teevens has already been seen as an innovator in football when it comes to his work aimed at reducing concussions by eliminating tackling at practices.
“I think other people can do the same,” Teevens said of the no-tackling safety measures he enacted roughly seven years ago. “And the women coming up here [to Dartmouth]—I’m hoping they can take some of this back [to their own communities], and maybe take some hits off kids that might not do so otherwise.”
Teevens said he’d like to see female interns become a fixture of his program in the future. He’d also like to see other colleges do this, saying it would strengthen the future of the sport.