Ravens' Female Training Camp Coaching Intern Shares Her Experience


Lori Locust is back in her southern Pennsylvania home, bored and battling a strange summer cold.

Locust spent three weeks at Ravens training camp as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. She broke new ground, becoming the Ravens' first female coach in franchise history.

It was exhilarating and educational. And now she knows she wants more.

"I'm just kind of lost," she said. "It's anticlimactic. You get to work in this dream situation and then it's over and you're just home."

Other women have blazed the path. In 2016, Kathryn Smith became the NFL's first full-time coach with the Buffalo Bills. Last year, Katie Sowers became the second with the San Francisco 49ers.

Now Locust is hoping to join them, armed with an invaluable experience in Baltimore.

Locust said she had an "unbelievable" experience. She went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and coached in its annual game. She was part of joint practices with the Los Angeles Rams and was on the sideline for the Ravens' second preseason game.

She spent her time with Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale and Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen. Whatever was needed, from helping players correct their stances and pad levels to setting up drills, she did. But mostly, she was a fly on the wall, watching and learning.

A lifetime football fan and former defensive end on a female semi-pro team, Locust got into coaching the same way many coaches do – after an injury. She's been doing it for 13 years at the high school, semi-pro and arena levels – most recently with the National Arena League's Lehigh Valley Steelhawks.

Still, when Locust came to the Ravens, there was a huge learning curve. She was like a rookie, and Baltimore's coaches treated her the same as they do the players.

"They didn't slow down anything for me," Locust said. "I respected that more than if they would have taken steps to factor me into the process. It was like, 'This is what we're doing, sink or swim. Catch up if you want to catch up.'"

Locust did her best, asking questions along the way while trying not to get in the way. Players such as Carl Davis and Michael Pierce helped her while she tried to help them in turn.

"She did a nice job for us," Martindale said. "When you come to a new place like this, it's like going from Spanish III to French X in a day, but she picked up on our techniques and different things like that pretty quickly."

Locust came away with a lot of lessons beyond the field. She was blown away by the overall culture around the organization. She couldn't believe how meticulously every day was scripted, how much work was put into evaluation and the depth of knowledge of the coaches.

"Every meeting, it was like sitting in a room full of defensive coordinators," Locust said. "They all knew everybody else's position. They all knew how all the pieces worked together. That was incredible to me."

She was also in awe of the support staff behind the team, which made going out for each practice or game look so easy when there are so many moving parts. But the interactions with the players will of course be what sticks.

Locust doesn't focus on the fact that she's a woman in a male-dominated profession (although that's very slowly starting to change). The Ravens, she felt, made it easy not to think about.

"Being part of the 'brotherhood' that existed already, without question, that meant the most," Locust said. "It didn't feel like I was an outsider."

Locust named defensive tackles Michael Pierce and Carl Davis among those who especially welcomed her, but the player she most connected with was outside linebacker/defensive end Za'Darius Smith. She played the same position in semi-pro ball. He called her "Flo" instead of "Lo." She told him to quit lining up offsides.

"That was the first time that I worked with a female coach like that before. She really knew football," Smith said. "She has a lot of respect from me, the defensive line group, and I would say the whole defense."

Locust is very sensitive about the perception that she's coaching to break down barriers. She wants to encourage other women to get into the business so long as their reasons are the same as hers – for the love of coaching football. She doesn't want to make her gender the story.

"Sometimes in my head there would be a flash like, 'Wow, no other woman has ever done this before,'" Locust said. "That's not the reason why I do what I do. I want to coach. But sitting and listening to us breaking film down, watching it with the guys, having [Terrell Suggs] in the same room and hearing him talk to the players, that's special."

Now Locust is looking for her next step. Her full-time job in marketing/sales made her pick between staying and taking the Ravens internship. She followed her heart and went with football.

Most staffs are full now that the season is right around the corner, but Locust may have an opportunity with an arena football team in Brooklyn.

"Good, bad or indifferent, this reinforced that this is where I want to be," Locust said.

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