Like every member of Jon Gruden’s new staff, Kelsey Martinez’s first focus is coaching.
Then, every so often, the league’s only female strength and conditioning coach is approached by one of her peers; running backs coach Jemal Singleton, special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, and more.
They all want to thank Martinez for blazing a trail their own daughters can follow.
“That’s when it started to hit: ‘Oh, wow. This is a big deal,'” Martinez told Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “To be an inspiration for them is huge to me.”
It’s a rarity to see a woman in on an NFL team’s coaching staff. Recently, Kathryn Smith (Bills) and Katie Sowers (49ers) became full-time staff employees.
But the Silver and Black has a history of trailblazing NFL hires, including Art Shell as the league’s first black coach and first Tom Flores as the league’s first Hispanic coach.
Oakland is currently the only team to list a female strength and conditioning coach on their team website, though. Linebacker James Cowser said he’s thankful he gets to work with Martinez.
“It instantly becomes business, and that’s what it’s all about,” Cowser told Gehlken. “I think that’s a testament to her and who she is because she’s able to get us to switch into work mode. We don’t think about male-female whatever. It’s just business and how can we get better.”
That’s what Martinez tries to bring to the Raiders‘ practice facility every day. According to Gehlken, she’s helping offensive linemen keep pace with Gruden’s faster offense, helping Cowser and his fellow linebackers bulk up.
She’s also helping to pave the way for an underrepresented group in the league. Martinez may want to focus on coaching, but she knows she’s setting an example as well.
“Don’t create limits on yourself,” Martinez said. “There’s many excuses or whatever that can be made, but at the end of the day, what do you love to do? I was able to find what I love to do, and that’s working for Jon Gruden every day. Why limit yourself?”
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