JACKSONVILLE, Fla – There is no one more on the "front lines" for the Jaguars than the athletic trainers. They stand on the sideline, keeping a vigilant eye on the athletes around them, ready to run across the field and tend to an injured player at a moment's notice.
Watching a Jaguars game in the stands or on TV, you might notice a blonde flash running non-stop, weaving between the athletes towering over her to making sure they are taped, bandaged, braced and hydrated. Meet Cassie Ettel.
Ettel is going on her fifth season as an Associate Athletic Trainer for the Jaguars. She started as an intern from the University of North Florida and made such an impression with her motivation and knowledge that the team offered her a full-time position in 2019, making her the team's first female athletic trainer in franchise history.
Since she joined the team, Ettel has had a front row seat to the evolution of the role of women in sports.
"I think a long time ago, women in sports only meant the cheerleaders," said Ettel. "Now, you are almost talking about every department within a football team having female representation when you think about it."
In addition to recognizing and preventing injuries, trainers are constantly hauling equipment and gear on the field and in the training room. Athletic training is a very physically demanding career, which can lead to assumptions on the part of male counterparts, but Ettel navigates this beautifully.
"There are times where I am physically underestimated," said Ettel with a laugh. "Stamina through a training camp practice… lifting things. There is this fine line when you are in a male dominated environment of understanding chivalry in nature and being underestimated."
Ettel has been featured on numerous occasions as a woman in a high-profile role on an NFL team. She is grateful for the recognition for her hard work but would rather it be on merit than gender.
"Hopefully it gets to a point where you are not a male and you can do the same job and people don't feel like they have to talk about it," Ettel said point-blank. "When you draw attention to something, people start to think 'is this normal?' There should be a balance to the recognition."
Ettel has seen firsthand how far the NFL and the Jaguars have come in giving females the opportunities they deserve. "When I graduated, there was only one female athletic trainer in the NFL – now there are 16!" she said.
Though great strides have been made in recent years, there is still ground to be made up. "A good analogy is running shoes. The only difference between men's and women's are size and slight variations in shape but, at the end of the day, they accomplish the same goal – running. Right now, we spend an entire month talking about women in sports; hopefully one day we won't have to talk about it at all."
"For women currently in sports and those who aspire to break into the industry, the possibilities are endless," she said, in closing. Though the conversation of inclusion is still front and center, strong female leaders like Cassie Ettel continue to lead the way.