Gathered in the “Huddle Cafe” at the NFL’s offices and surrounded by signed memorabilia and Super Bowl champion rings, we got a rare glimpse into what it’s like to shatter the glass ceiling from a true Changemaker.
Always an athlete, Collette V. Smith was told she couldn’t play football because she was a woman. At 42, her world changed when she tried out (in Uggs, no less) and made the team for the New York Sharks – Women’s Professional Football Team. Collette shared the story of her remarkable journey into the world of football – from Fan to Player to Defensive Back Coach of the New York Jets – and left a room full of women inspired and ready to chase our dreams.
Make Yourself Known
There’s no substitute for hard work. For Collette, that meant doing everything possible to get recognized for her skills, talent, and knowledge of a sport not readily accessible to female athletes. Sprinkling in anecdotes about how the absence of women’s restrooms resembled the scene with Taraji P. Henson running across NASA campus to find one inHidden Figures, Collette’s journey to Defensive Back Coach for the NY Jets is rooted in persistence and seizing the moments to make yourself known. “Here’s my card, where’s yours?” she joked, reflecting on the importance of seizing all the opportunities to let others know who we are and what we can offer.
Going Against the Grain
You don’t get to be the only woman in a male-dominated industry without a strong sense of conviction. “It’s easy to stand with the pack; standing alone for what you believe takes courage.” Collette’s confidence is infectious, as she had us all challenging the norms that prevent us from being our true selves and fighting for what we want.
After a successful career in real estate, Collette traded in a career of condos for cleats. While she missed parts of her lifestyle and the occasional extravagance, she also knew no paycheck was worth more than being at peace with herself. Her father observed, “I’ve never seen you happier since when you got involved in sports” and Collette knows that’s the real success worth chasing.
Coaching Lessons from a Coach
It’s not often in life you have the chance to be coached by a pro Coach, so remember Collette and repeat after us:
How to be bold as an introvert? If you want it enough, you will succeed. If you don’t, you didn’t want it badly enough.
What to do when men man-splain? Say, and repeat if need be, “I got it,” until they get it.
How to be powerful without being labeled a b****? That’s not my problem. Here’s what I bring to the table.
What to do when no one’s giving you an opportunity? No one needs to give it to you. Take it and make it for yourself.
Believe in You
From the time she was a young girl, Collette’s father had been an invaluable part of her life. A Vietnam Vet, he would tell her, “whatever you do, give it your all.” And when she doubted herself, he would lift her up with the words, “believe in you”. Now she’s taking her message to help lift up others. Inspired by her father, she started Believe N You to help others find the confidence and self-assurance to chase their dreams.
Leaving a Positive Legacy
Having shattered the glass ceiling as the first female coach for the NY Jets and first African American Female Coach for the NFL, Collette secured her place inherstory. But the real legacy she wants to leave is around empowering others in a positive way. Collette credits sports as instrumental in helping her overcome toxic and abusive relationships and rediscover her self-worth. Now she’s committed to helping women and girls fight subliminal messaging, and pushes us all to be brave, bold, and confident.
Connect with Collette here to learn more about her work at Believe N You and potential opportunities to engage with her.