Phoebe Schecter – the woman breaking barriers in NFL coaching and TV coverage
Equestrian. Linebacker. Kabaddi player… Phoebe Schecter certainly has a varied sporting CV – and that is before you get on to her coaching stint with the Buffalo Bills in the NFL. Yet this weekend she is in the spotlight in another role: television pundit.
Schecter will be pitchside in Arizona on Sunday as Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs meet in the Super Bowl, offering her expert verdict on events to Sky Sports viewers. “There are people who are brand new to the sport tuning in and people who have been following the sport since the Eighties, so it’s about trying to reach both audiences,” she says. “I try to make the game more simple, to educate and share knowledge.”
The peculiarity of Schecter’s story is that she did not get involved in American Football until moving from Connecticut to the UK a decade ago. She originally crossed the Atlantic to work for a member of the Dutch equestrian team but when searching for a connection to home, she headed to American Football trials.
“I had never played contact sport before but when you’re out of your comfort zone you’re more willing to take risks,” she says. “I went along and had no idea what I was doing but it grew from there. I fell in love with it.”
She has gone on to represent the Great Britain team (she has dual citizenship through her mother), is an ambassador for NFL Flag, the sport’s non-contact version, and plays an integral role in growing the sport in the UK. She also captains Britain’s kabaddi team, describing the ancient sport as “a mixture of British Bulldog, rugby without the ball and MMA”.
Arguably, though, Schecter has made the most significant strides off the field. First, she is one of the few female coaches to have worked in the NFL, spending a year with the Bills from 2018. While there has still never been a female head coach in the league, there are more women in coaching roles and Schecter believes their influence is growing.
“I’d be looking for someone to take on a positional coach role so they have room to control that and there are definitely women on track to do that,” she says. “Ultimately, the goal is that if you’re a great coach or a great reporter, gender has nothing to do with it.”
That feeds into the second point of how she has carved out a successful career as a television analyst – another sphere where there have been few female faces in the NFL.
“I think I impressed,” she says somewhat self-deprecatingly of her first appearance on Sky’s NFL Overtime programme. “They asked me back! I never thought I would be doing this but I always wanted to be a bridge between the US and the UK, I want to help bring the two countries’ cultures together.
“I always try to overprep because I’d rather have more information than be stuck. Ultimately I’m a coach; I’m on screen but I’m still a coach so I want to share my experience, to educate, not speculate. I’m not somebody with hot takes. I love that I get to talk about something I love.”
If an opportunity arose to return to coaching in the NFL, she says it would be a “no-brainer” for her to accept, but for now she is excelling in front of the camera. So who is her tip for the Super Bowl? “Eagles to win.”