Lori Locust – Interview

Lori Locust joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL team after working as the defensive line coach for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football during the league’s inaugural season this spring.  In 2018, Lori served as a defensive coaching intern for the Baltimore Ravens during the team’s training camp and, from 2017-18, worked as a defensive line/linebackers coach and co-special teams coordinator of the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the National Arena League.

We first spoke with Lori back in April 2016 when she was the Head Defensive Line Coach and Defensive Special Teams Coordinator for the Central Penn Capitals Men’s Arena (indoor) Team as well as the Assistant Coach for Central Penn Piranha.

To read our first interview with Lo, CLICK HERE

As always, we loved chatting with Lo about all things coaching…

Congratulations on an incredible progression over the last few years!  Have you managed to take a step back yet and taken in what you’ve achieved?

Yes and no, I think because I am so focussed on staying in the league now that I’ve gotten here, I feel like i’ve put more pressure on myself to stay and to do a good job.  I want to work even harder than what’s expected of me because I don’t want it to just go away.  I want to make sure that I am not only just living up to expectations that they had when they brought me in, but I want to make sure that everything that I am putting time into is going to be of value to the team.I know people have said ‘wow, you’re in the NFL, have a great time and enjoy it!” but in my head I’m thinking ‘yeah, I love this and I love what I do, but do you know how much work I have to do!”

I enjoy this, but I’m not walking raround drawing in accolades and not taking it seriously.  I can’t let the experience of all this take over the fact that I have a job to do!I don’t know that I can ever say I’ve made it because this is just the beginning for me, now I have to work harder than ever because I am here!  For example, right now, we all have 6 weeks off and there is nobody here, but I’ve been in at least 2 or 3 days a week just because I want to make sure I have the information correct, I want to look over my notes, I want to get things organised.  I don’t want to leave anything to chance right now.  I know that’s a long answer, but I can’t say that I’ve made it yet, because this is just the beginning.

Do you get frustrated in interviews when your gender keeps getting brought up?  Being one of very few women in the NFL, it seems you, Katie Sowers, Jennifer King and Maral Javadifar can’t get away from the question! 

I think that until it becomes a little bit more commonplace to see women in positions in the league from a coaching stand point I think the questions about gender will continue to be asked.  In someways I feel like people are trying to gain understanding as to who I am  as coaches because they just have not been exposed to it.  As a player they haven’t been coached by a woman etc…so from a stand point of trying to provide understanding I never mind being asked.

I feel as though at some point in time it will go away.  It may still always get asked because in the grand scheme of things, in the history of football there really has never been a female presence.  I try and downplay it a little, it’s not part of who I am as a coach – i.e. I don’t want to lead with that point, because I feel there is some danger to that.  If you focus on gender too much, you widen the gap of us not being able to do the same job as our male counterparts if I keep beating a drum about being a woman.  I am a coach who happens to be female…I have alway led with me being a coach first.

Yes I am a woman, and I do things that are typical as such of being a woman (I like looking after my kids, cooking etc), but when it comes to football its just about being a good coach, and I’m not sure that has anything to do with being a man or a woman.  I just want to be a good coach, and that’s all anyone expects an assistant coach to do!

My job doesn’t change becuase I am a woman, all the prep that I do, the reviews, all the time I put in is to be the best coach I can be.  None of that has any gender assignment.

It’s a question I’m sure I will always get asked, but in my head I think; ‘I’m sure you’re not asking my male coach colleagues what it’s like to be a male coach’.  It’s still all a little new though, so I think people are still coureous as to how I’m being treated, or how the players are responding.  I’ll keep answering them because at a certain point they will get tired of asking them – hopefully!  And then we can move on to other topics.

In our interview with Jennifer King (Panthers Coach), she mentioned that you have a Whattsap group chat with her and Katie Sowers. How important is it to be able to connect with the other women in the NFL and share your experiences?

Yes, networking is so valuable!

One of the things that has been really valuable is being accepted into the forum with Sam Rapopport and being placed into the pipeline of the NFL.  I had been doing all this [coaching] for a long time but until I got into the forum, the only people I could follow and get advice from where my male counterparts, which was great – I have been very blessed to have some great mentors, and guys that have really given me opportunities and continue to offer me positions – which has been phenomenal…but what Sam did by doing these forums is she connected us all.  And now it’s not as isolating doing this job.

There are a lot of times you are coaching and you don’t know if you are doing the right thing, if you’ve made the right choice, so you have to figure things out on your own.  We are all strong women and we are capable of doing that, but there are some times where it’s nice to get perspective – so to be able to connect to Katie and to Jen – it’s so nice – even to just briefly share things via text messaging.  It’s been super valuable because not only are they amazing people in general, they are two of the best women I have ever had the opportunity to know.  They are so genuine and willing to help, they are just good people.

The coaching aspect of it now is especially, helpful.  We can ask questions with regards to league stuff. Katie was always very open and honest about her experiences and now Jen and I have our experiences to share too, it’s just been so good to be able to do that.  When you hear the guys talk, you hear; “oh yeah I know him because we played together here, and now he is coaching over there and now we are here together”… this is what I am hoping is starting with us women, so 10 years down the line we can have the same conversations: ‘oh yeah I used to coach with her here and now she is with that programme.”  To be able to create a network with in the league like the guys have would be incredible.  So our Whattsap group is the first brick in the wall that we are able to bounce ideas off one another and just laugh about some stuff.

When you coach at a certain level, sometimes it’s difficult to explain this world to people who are outside of it.  I don’t mean that in an exclusionary way, but for example, one of the things we always joke about is the calendar – the football calendar is just so different.  Sometimes when you are away in season, you don’t know what day it is – you know it’s day 3, but you don’t know if that’s a Tuesday or a Wednesday!  You just loose track of so much stuff, you get in this routine.  I know it sounds such a small thing, but I’ve had friends from outside of football who just don’t get it.  I try and tell them – ‘I’m on football calendar!’ but they don’t understand.  So to have people that understand all this to talk to has been so valuable!

What does a day in the life of an NFL Assistant coach look like?

I got here pre-season, so I am assuming it’s relatively the same as what happened at Baltimore (Baltimore Ravens NFL Team).  We arrive a little bit before 6:00am, so we can start at 8:00am.  We have everything prepped the day before, but we have meetings in the morning, they start around 8:00am.  Then we break it down to have a Defence meeting and then we go into our specific position meetings.  We watch film, discuss up and coming opponents, we go over the calls we have in for that week.

In the early part of the week, you look at first and second down situations and what the team does, and then as the week progresses you go into 3rd down, goal line…there is so many perimeters.  Each segment of the game is broken down and we look at it from the D-Line stand point.  On top of all that, we are still doing practice, the scout team prep.There are also a lot of reports that get done that we present to the players.  I was working on one this morning which was a template, because they like them to be visual so we try to make them look good.As the week progresses, you continue to tighten up some of the other things like some calls, whose going, whose staying, you get prepared for travel.We as coaches stay until the work gets done, there is never really an end time of each day.

Although here, they try and ensure that staff get a balance, so we aren’t asked to stay too late and they want us out of here at a decent time, anywhere between 20:00 and 21:00 at night.  Which is phenomenal, because when I coached at Birmingham, we were there until 23:30 which would have been an early night for us!  If we had heavy workloads, we were sometimes there until 02:30am in the morning and then had to come back in the next day.It’s a continuing cycle of review the opponent, review the game, run prep for the next opponent, make adjustments, change the calls etc.

Time wise, anywhere between 10 to 12 hours a day sometimes more depending on the workload.  I just love it, the prep stuff, the reviewing the film, cut outs, scouting the opponent.

What is the split between the paperwork and planning between being on the actual training ground?

There is a lot of prep work!! The prep work is heavier than the actual practice on the field.  We only have a couple of hours of practice a day, but beyond that we are either meeting with the guys or meeting as a staff – reviewing film etc.

The off the field stuff becomes like a chess game, looking for tendencies  their personalities, their calls, figuring out what we have in place right now and what we could change slightly to address that as we go into the game. I don’t even know if this is accurate, but it feels like 2/3 prep and a 1/3 practice.

People don’t realise how much prep there is! I’m used to it now, but even if we just look at all the runs, you then break the runs down into the first and second down and then is it in the red zone, then the high red zone, then the low red zone then goal line…everything gets broken down.  So many categories you have to look at on film.  And then all of this goes into the game plan, it’s pretty heavy! You’ve got to make it look easy by the time the game comes along so that everyone knows exactly what they are doing!


What are you most looking forward to as the season starts?

Winning!  Looking at the way the Defence was last year, and knowing where they ended up (how we faired against the rest of the teams) out of 32 we were in the high 20’s in Defence.  So there’s lots of room to improve and that’s something we have set out to do.  The Offence did really well last year, but on the Defence side, we want to make sure we are doing a lot better.  That will come with winning, if we can match the Defence production with the Offence production, then the wins will come.  I’m excited to see the scheme that the new Defensive coordinator has put in because I feel the guys will be in better positions to play.  I am just excited to see it all happen!

We have some guys that I am very excited to see play and with the D line to see if they can do what we feel they can do.

I look forward to so much, like when you look forward to different seasons of the year, I look forward to training camp, then I look forward to games, then hopefullly the playoffs, there is just so much to look forward to! I don’t know if there is just one thing.