Brown Bears’ Heather Marini is first female Division I football position coach: ‘It means there will be a next’ – USA TODAY

Posted: March 22, 2020 at 4:45 am


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Heather Marini is a coach. The quarterbacks coach for the Brown University Bears, to be precise. That's a new title, but she's been a coach practically half her life.

But becauseMarini is female, she is "the first female position coach in Division I history." So the question about what that distinction means to her has come up inrecent days since her promotion. She claimedshe still doesn't have a great answer for it. It's still a pretty good one.

"Honestly, I think its great that there is a first because it means there will be a next,'" Marini said by phone Tuesday, a day after Brown made her promotion from offensive quality control assistant to quarterbacks coach official.

"There are so many women that I have met through this journey and through this process that are going to make great position coaches, that are going to make great offensive coordinators, that are going to make excellent head coaches. By being the first, that means someone else is going to come along."

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Brown University QB coach Heather Marini grew up in Australia.(Photo: Jessica Koach)

It just so happened Marini's turn came before everyone else.

"I dont think its the worlds biggest deal," she said in herAustralian accent."And its certainly not the biggest deal in the world to the staff here at Brown, who have been fantastic."

The road from Australia to Providence, Rhode Island, was not direct.

I feel like I need a prerecorded version of this story now, she saidwith a laugh.

It basically goes like this. A girl who grew up in a small Australian townplayed every sport under the sun but gravitatedtoward tennis and netball (a game similar to basketball). At college, she majored in emergency health at Monash University, but the degree may as well have read "coaching," Marini said. Her dream was to coach the Australian national netball team.

About a decade ago,she met Kieren Marini, an Australianwho grew upwatching the NFL with his dad and is now her husband of nearly five years. At first, both Kieren and Heather assumed her first football game would be her last. She watched from the sidelineon a freezing, rainy day.

"She was like, 'I dont think Ill ever love the sport like you do.' Which is kind of funny because of where she is now," he said.

Kieren saidthe game lasted more than fourhours; Heather believedit wascloser to five-and-a-half.

I thought, This is the craziest sport Ive ever seen. Im not sure Im that interested. Good luck! Heather said.

As they dated,Kieren kept playing, and Heather became a trainer for the club. Then she advanced to strength and conditioning coach.

The more I startedlearning about the sport, the more I got involved, she said.

In 2010, Marini landed an internship with theOregon State Beavers inthe strength and conditioning department. She loved it, but her heart wasnt in the weight room. It was on the field.

"In Australia, all that strength and conditioning was done out on the field. So we didnt really delineate between sports-specific drills and strength and conditioning drills," Marini said."I went back to Australia with that knowledge of, Actually, I want to be on the field. And I got more and more involved."

Back at Monash, she began coaching the U-19 team, with the Warriors finding success as one of the younger teams in the leagues.

Kierens work as a cancer researcher (heholds a PhD and works at the University of California, San Francisco) brought the couple to the U.S.As they prepared for the move in 2017, Marini attendedthe NFL Womens Careers in Football Forum.She made two life-changing contacts there: NFL senior director SamanthaRapoport, who pushed her to apply for jobs,and Brown head coach JamesPerry, who was then leadingBryant University.

It dawnedon Marini that coaching could be a career rather than a hobby. After all, her coaching efforts in Australia were solelyvolunteer. Once she received a working permit in the U.S., she embarked on her owncoaching tour.

"I call it my DIY internship year," Marini said."I had a lot of coaches that were really supportive of me and let me come to practice and sit and watch film and all that sort of thing. Met a lot of folks, went to a lot of clinics."

She broke into the professional ranks in 2018 by earning a pro scouting fellowship with the New York Jets, spending six weeks with the team before the season started. A few months later, when Perry was forming a new staff at his alma mater, he hired three women to his quality control staff including Marini.

"Heather has earned the coaching position,"Perry said in a statement."In one season with our program, Heather has done a great job for us.She has proven through her efforts in the office every day with us in an off-the-field role that she's ready to run the quarterback room."

At Brown, Marini will have the luxury of coaching E.J. Perry, a Boston College transfer who set league records in 2019. The Bears play fast and run a lot of plays, which Marini enjoys.

"How can I take the playbook or the skill that were trying to teach and get the best out of the player? How do I use my words and my demonstrations and the drills I create in order to get them to execute at the highest possible level?" she said, describing her style.

"My coaching philosophy was: Develop thinking players, always developing, always moving forward, always building, getting them to really think about not just their job on the field but whats happening around them as well as, now that Im here in the U.S., how theyre developing as student-athletes."

And Marinihas more in mind for her future --she would like to eventually call plays andbecome a head coach.

The path to becoming a position coach in the Division I ranks usually involves goingfrom player to graduate assistant, to assistant, with those individuals all men until this point relying on personal networks and connections.

Kieren, who tries to FaceTime Heather every dayfrom California(it helps that he craves nitty-gritty football information),realizeshis wife reached that level the hard way.

"I dont think youcan understate how much work she is putting into this," he said."I guess a lot of paths American coaches have is very built into the system."

That system couldn't deny Heather Marini, and now she's a part of it.

Read more:
Brown Bears' Heather Marini is first female Division I football position coach: 'It means there will be a next' - USA TODAY

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March 22nd, 2020 at 4:45 am

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