Karlis Larsen, Joppatowne High School football coach, was ticking off the names of his assistant coaches the other day, "Greg Komondor, Ray Gerald, Jerry Lee, Mary Ann Smith. . . .
A woman football coach for a high school team may not be impossible, but certainly has to be considered unusual. "She coached other sports and working with the cheerleaders brought her closer to football," Larsen said. "She knew the players, and it just seemed like a good idea." To which Smith, when approached about the idea, had said "Sure!" as though scoffing at the offer. Her second reaction, however, was one of "Why not?"
Later, she admitted to being more worried about the appointment going through the necessary chain of command, although, as it turned out, her principal, Doris Williams, was ecstatic about the idea.
"I think she'll be an extremely valuable tool to Coach Larsen. She brings expertise to a staff the other assistants don't have," Williams said in confirming the appointment. "Our assistants are new, and she is the one person who has knowledge of what has happened in the past.
"Our cheerleading staff works closely with the football staff on administrative duties, but I want to make it clear this is not a paper-pushing job.
"She was appointed for her knowledge of football, and I wouldn't have done it if I didn't feel she could do the job."
And, that is true for the new cheerleading coach, too, as a man, Phil Everett, inherits the position.
Talking about her new job, Smith said, "At first, I wasn't sure how the other coaches would react, but they've been tremendous. I'm just another coach. They help me, and I've spotted some things they missed. We work well together."
"As for the boys on the team, it never entered my mind how they would react. I was just another coach and they've treated me that way." Smith works with the wide receivers and helps Komondor with the defensive line.
Smith, who with her husband, Ted, coaches Joppatowne's swimming and tennis teams, also is the school guidance secretary. "I'm like a mom to a lot of the boys," she says.
Fine, but what about football?
"I'm from Pennsylvania, and football was the big thing in the fall. My brother was a top player at East Stroudsburg, then went into coaching, and he has been a big help. I had the summer to get ready, and I did a lot of studying. Obviously, there's a lot to learn.
"I know what I have to do, and I think I've shown it. There's no special treatment. In this preseason, I'm there for the 6 a.m. meetings, the practices, everything. We have an exceptional group [of coaches and players], and I don't think they have changed how they normally act because I'm there."
Her presence provides the program with additional services. "I do the paper work," she says. "I'm a stickler for getting things right, and it so happens I can do them quicker. I have a computer, and I like to use it. It works out well."
"No big deal" is the way Smith, involved with sports for some 30 years, sees her new position. "I'm looked upon as just another coach, and they treat me that way. It's just Mrs. Smith coaching another sport."