She had no prior experience of playing for coaching for a football team but her commitment to personal growth helped her learn everything from scratch.
In an inspiring and groundbreaking move, April Florie, a 57-year-old mother of two, shattered stereotypes and became the first female football coach in the history of New Jersey's 42-team Shore Conference. This remarkable story of passion, determination and embracing the unexpected unfolded in Toms River, where Florie took an unconventional leap into the world of coaching. Florie shared that she had to face the fear and anxiety when considering joining the coaching staff of the Toms River East football team, per Asbury Park Press.
She shared, "I literally thought everyone would say no. Who knew the first person I asked would say yes?" The person who said yes was none other than head coach, Kyle Sandberg, known for his open-minded approach to the game. Sandberg, who had previously welcomed two female players onto the team during his tenure, saw Florie's request as an opportunity to promote inclusivity and growth within the sport.
"When it comes to playing time, I don't care what grade. It doesn't matter to me if they're freshmen or seniors. The best guys, the ones that are training the hardest and the ones that are going to put the effort in, are going to be out there," Sandberg explained, "If you're willing to put the time in and want to make a difference for this community, why not coach?"
Florie's journey into coaching football wasn't a calculated career move rather was born out of a desire to connect with her community and school on a deeper level. She wanted to be part of the fabric of the town and school where both her children attended and played sports. As she observed the strong community ties, she realized that football could be a powerful means of achieving that goal. Her journey into the world of football coaching began with a simple, yet audacious request to Sandberg. Florie admitted that she had no prior experience in football and had only watched games on TV as a fan. Still, the idea of coaching resonated with her as an opportunity to challenge herself and learn something entirely new.
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At the onset of her coaching journey, Florie faced many challenges. She described her first practice in August as "petrifying." She had to ask a thousand questions and felt like she was in another world with coaches speaking a different language. The sensory overload was real, but the determination to grow and learn prevailed. Florie's commitment to personal growth and her unwavering determination were evident to her players and colleagues.
She was described as having an "amazing mindset" and being "super smart." The football players and coaching staff embraced her presence and recognized her wisdom and motivation. The journey was not without its humorous moments, such as the practical challenge of sharing bathroom facilities with the opposing team. Still, Florie's dedication to her role as an assistant coach remained unwavering.
April Florie is an English and special education teacher at Toms River High School East in New Jersey. She’s also the first female football coach in the history of New Jersey’s 42-team Shore Conference. https://t.co/2chQnvYneM— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) October 21, 2023
As a pioneering woman in football coaching, Florie doesn't see herself breaking glass ceilings. Instead, she sees her journey as a source of inspiration for other women who may want to step into the male-dominated world of football. She says, "I hope a nice young lady, who's more knowledgable in football than I am, takes a chance. I hope my own children see that. To be fearless and try things that they're not comfortable with and just try. If you fail, you fail. But at least you tried."