Schecter's football summer includes internship with Bills

Phoebe Schecter didn’t start playing American football until she left America. But this summer Schecter returned to gain coaching experience at the sport’s highest level.

The 27-year-old Schecter, who grew up in Ridgefield, was one of four coaching interns for the Buffalo Bills at their training camp in Pittsford, N.Y. Schecter’s three-week internship culminated with the Bills first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Aug. 10.

“As a defensive intern, I was tasked with a range of duties to assist coach Gill Byrd and the defensive backs unit,” said Schecter, a 2007 Ridgefield High graduate who now lives in England and plays and coaches American football. “Day to day, this meant collating schedules, labelling film, daily meetings, and on-field activities supporting everyday drills.

“To be honest, I loved all the assignments I performed,” continued Schecter. “Just seeing the range and detail in which the coaching staff go into with drills and activities is an eye-opener.”

A full-time personal trainer, Schecter plays linebacker for the Birmingham Lions women's football team and safety for the Staffordshire Surge men’s squad. She is also captain of the Great Britain's women's national team and head coach for the Surge’s ladies team.

Schecter’s internship with the Bills began through her connection with Samantha Rapoport, the NFL’s Director of Football Development. In her previous job as director of football development for USA Football, Rapoport created the Women’s World Football Games, a combination clinic/scrimmage event that Schecter attended.

Schecter participated in an NFL forum on women's football careers at the Pro Bowl in January and met Bills co-owner Kim Pegula, one of the speakers at the event. With encouragement from Rapoport, Schecter applied for an internship through The Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship. Walsh, the former Super Bowl-winning coach of the San Francisco 49ers, introduced the program in 1987 as a way to expose talented minority coaches to the methods and philosophies of NFL summer training camps.

Rapoport’s recommendation to Kim Pegula helped Schecter enter the interview process with the Bills. Following a final interview with Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott, Schecter was selected as one of the Bills’ four interns.

“Coach McDermott made me realize from the start that I would be treated like any other Bills staff member,” said Schecter, who was one of eight women in NFL coaching and scouting internships this summer. “My gender did not matter, and my status as an intern meant they knew how to challenge but not overwhelm me. The players and Bills organization made me feel a part of the team; it was incredibly motivating to work with such an amazing group of individuals.”

Schecter said that she will incorporate much of what she observed during the internship into her coaching in England.

“I learned from coach McDermott that I should always seek to put the players and staff in the best position to succeed, by allowing them to build on their strengths, not just overemphasizing their weaknesses,” said Schecter. “Also, coach McDermott preaches and lives by horizontal leadership, which was brilliant to see [all the coaches] supported and respected by all … it was very humbling to learn from the coaches who gave me the opportunities to learn.”

Now back in England, Schecter will continue coaching and playing for her two club teams and the Great Britain national team, which finished fourth at the recent Women’s World Championship in Canada. She will also continue as an ambassador for the unlikely sport she has come to love.

“In the UK, there is the potential for the sport to grow rapidly over the next decade,” said Schecter. “We have some incredibly committed and enthusiastic people within the British women's game, and the future looks exciting.”

During her visits to Ridgefield — she has family still living in the town — Schecter even finds time for football.

“I am very fortunate to still be close with Pete McLean (the strength and conditioning coach for the Ridgefield High football team),” said Schecter. “So when I have been back home, he invites me to come back to Tigers Hollow and observe football if it is on, or just join in on some gym sessions.”