TAMPA — The Women of Red showed up in a big way on Thursday night, as nearly 1,500 female fans visited the indoor practice facility at One Bucs Place to run receiving routes, kick field goals and take in the action at Buccaneers training camp.
Thursday’s annual Women of Red event eclipsed last season’s total of 1,000 attendees. Team supporters at the event, most of whom were female, said the hiring of two women to the coaching staff emboldened their fandom and inspired their attendance.
In March, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians hired Lori Locust, an assistant defensive line coach, and Maral Javadifar, an assistant strength and conditioning coach. They are the first full-time female coaches in Tampa Bay history, and the Buccaneers are the first NFL franchise to hire two female coaches.
Deanna Dibella left work early and made the two hour drive from Fort Myers with her nine-year-old daughter, Ryleigh Schoenewald, and her friend, Tiffani Maurice, to attend Thursday’s event.
“I think that it’s empowering,” said Dibella, 31. “There are so many women that are really into football and would be great coaches.”
Dibella said her family is full of Dolphins fans, but she defected to join the Buccaneers fan base last year. She said the invitation to Women of Red played a big role in her fandom.
“I love that I can bring my daughter, who’s 9, to something like this," Dibella said. “She’s never been to something like this. We’ve never been so close to the players outside of the games.”
Maurice, 29, participated in football drills with Dibella and Ryleigh, catching passes and running sprints with parachutes before settling into the bleachers for training camp.
“They’re really showing their female fans that they care,” Maurice said. “They want us to be a part of what they’re doing.”
Maurice said she did not have a favorite NFL team in the past, but Tampa Bay’s inclusion of women and the hiring of two female coaches caught her attention.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a male or a female,” Maurice said. “To them, a good coach is a good coach.”
Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, the president of the Bucs Foundation and Glazer Family Foundation, touted the strides that Tampa Bay has made in growing their female fan base.
“Our Women of Red fan group has become a real community now of women who feel very passionate about our Buccaneers,” Kassewitz said. “We’re bringing greater awareness for the opportunities that there are for women in the NFL.”
The Buccaneers invitation to female fans is part of the larger organizational push for gender equality. In addition to hiring two full-time female head coaches, the Bucs are adding their first ever male cheerleader this season, Kassewitz said.
“Our goal is that the Buccaneers organization reflects all of our fans,” Kassewitz said. “So when you think of the Bucs, you think diverse, inclusive and in support of women.”