Mar 27, 2013, 10:00 AM EST
Editor’s Note: In honor of March being Women’s History Month, CAA Football will interview several women working across the league to gain their thoughts on women’s history as it relates to their lives, careers, sports and society at large. This week we talk with Richmond’s Director of Football Operations, Erin O’Riley.
CAAFB: How long have you been in your current position?
EO: I’m entering my third year here at Richmond.
CAAFB: What are your responsibilities?
EO: I handle the day-to-day operations of the office. I do a lot with logistics and scheduling for the season–hotels, buses, walk-throughs, etc. I create itineraries, block out practice times, help with spring practices, coordinate officials and work a lot with the schools we’re traveling to and the schools that are coming here to play. I’m also the pro-liaison and the director of our team summer camps.
CAAFB: Talk about your relationship with the student-athletes.
EO: It’s a positive one and they’re very respectful. Many times they tend to come in my office, talk about what’s on their minds and release some steam. I think it’s a nice getaway for them. I’ve built a lot of trust with the players and they know they can come to me when something is on their mind.
CAAFB: Given that you’re somewhat close in age to them, do you think they see you as an older sister type figure?
EO: It probably depends. The older ones may think of me as an older sister, while the freshmen as maybe not a mother figure so much as just someone to help guide them now that they’re on their own. Regardless of if it’s a man or woman in this position, I think many of the players would come to whoever is in this position to talk, relax and get advice.
CAAFB: Describe your relationship like with the coaching staff.
EO: I’ve built a good relationship with the staff, too. They treat me like they treat one another for the most part. As a woman, I don’t think me working with them is any different, but I think there are some ways that they respond differently to me since I’m a woman. That’s probably only nature. They may not say some of the things that they would if it were a male in the position and they’re probably bit calmer and more thoughtful in that respect.
CAAFB: Do you keep in touch with many of the coaches after they move on and the players after they graduate?
EO: Yes, I still keep in touch with some of the coaches who I’ve worked with before coming to Richmond as well as ones who have worked here. The same is true for the players I’ve worked with. When it comes to the players, sometimes they call to catch up and other times they’re looking for help with their resumes, cover letters and letters of recommendations.
CAAFB: How did you initially get into the athletics field?
EO: I’ve played sports my whole life and played lacrosse in college, where I eventually decided I wanted to work in sports. I went to Bowling Green after undergrad and worked in their football office. I enjoyed that experience a lot and decided to stick with it.
CAAFB: Can you think of an instance when being a woman played a factor in your professional life?
EO: I think being a female is a factor. A coach is going to have to take a risk in bringing a woman into this position because there aren’t many of us and it can make for a different dynamic. I think there are some misperceptions of women working in football because of scandal-type stories you hear about in the media. I don’t think the media focuses on positive stories about women in football often enough. It’s the negative stories that maybe make some people believe that you can’t do the job as well because you’re a woman. My experience has been very positive, though, and I’m here to show that a woman can do this job just as well as any man.
CAAFB: Who were the women, famous or not, who influenced you as a child?
EO: I would say my mom because she’s older than most parents of people my age. She grew up in a time when women didn’t have the same opportunities that men did in school, whether it was not being allowed to wear jeans or not having the chance to play sports. My mom was athletic and was a cheerleader because she couldn’t play sports. The limitations for women back then taught her a lot. She’s always taught me that I could do whatever I wanted professionally and be successful at it regardless of my gender.
Outside of my mom, when I was younger we had women like Mia Hamm and Rebecca Lobo to look up to as athletes. But I didn’t have many female athletes in my life that I could look up to growing up. Looking back, I didn’t even have a female coach until college.
CAAFB: Who would you consider some of the more positive female role models in athletics for the younger generation nowadays?
EO: Kids these days are exposed to so many different types of female figures. It seems like so much attention is placed on people like the Real Housewives and the Kardashians when there are so many great role models out there. I really respect Pat Summit in women’s basketball and what Danica Patrick has been able to do in NASCAR circuit and Olympic heroes like Gabby Douglas. Even outside of sports, though, women like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton are empowering young girls and people my age as well.
CAAFB: Were there any women who served as personal mentors to you when you first started in the field?
EO: Not really to be honest. When I was first getting into the field, I mainly turned to men because they were the ones in these kinds of positions. Now there are more women holding them, but five or six years ago there really weren’t many.
CAAFB: Have there been students and other young women who have come to you for advice about the field?
EO: Yes, I actually recently talked to a girl who’s looking to get into this kind of position. One of my old coaches gave her my contact information and we had a good talk. I think the sports field is becoming so much more accessible to women, especially with more and more sports management degrees being offered, making more room for us to enter the industry.
CAAFB: There aren’t many women working in football. What does it mean to you to be a woman in this position?
EO: I think it means that people are becoming more and more accepting of women in the field. I’m very thankful to the staff for bringing me on here. Sports, and football in particular, is such a male-dominated industry that I’m proud to be a woman in this position. I want to be able to tell my kids that I worked in a profession where being a female wasn’t the norm and that I worked hard to create a positive impression of women doing this kind of work.
CAAFB: How do you see the role of women in athletics changing moving forward?
EO: We’re going to begin seeing even more women working in sports. Not only will we have more female employees, but we’ll also see more female head coaches and more women getting administrative positions like athletic director. This is true for football as well. There are now female officials and coaches at the high school level and hopefully we’ll see women breaking into the collegiate ranks in these capacities, too. It’s cool to hear these kinds of stories like the recent one about the nine-year-old running back who was dominating that youth league in Utah.
CAAFB: Women’s History Month is an important month for not only women, but for all Americans. Why should this month be celebrated by all people?
EO: It’s important that people are aware of what women have done and how far we’ve come in society. If they don’t know, then it creates a disservice, especially to the younger generation. We’re here to promote the growth of today’s youth, not inhibit it. Women have helped shape the America we’re living in today and knowing the past can only help to continue to shape the future.
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