Kelsey Martinez strengthens Raiders as 1st female assistant coach

Updated August 5, 2018 - 6:07 pm

NAPA, Calif. — She wore a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants when pacing the Raiders’ practice field. Her brown hair sat in a ponytail, a whistle in her right hand. She monitored the dynamic-stretching technique of 80-plus NFL players, all of whom awaited her next call.

“Stride forward.” They strode.

“Backward run.” They ran.

“Three-step cuts.” They cut.

This is Kelsey Martinez at work. On the football field, she says, she seldom thinks about any trail she’s blazed. But there have been conversations with Raiders coaches, men who have daughters. They’ve thanked her for embodying how their girls can do whatever they want in life.

“That’s when it started to hit: ‘Oh, wow. This is a big deal,’ ” Martinez said. “To be an inspiration for them is huge to me.”

Martinez is an example of how initiative and work ethic can lead to an NFL opportunity at age 26. She also happens to be a woman. Part of an organization that has broken race and gender barriers in its history, the strength and conditioning assistant is the Raiders’ first female assistant coach.

Martinez joined in March and is nearly two weeks into her first training camp.

She seems to have acclimated well to the Raiders — and they to her.

Some players worked with Martinez before her arrival. Of those in camp, nose tackle Justin Ellis, defensive end Bruce Irvin, outside linebacker James Cowser and defensive end Shakir Soto have conducted offseason training at Tom Shaw Performance at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando.

Martinez worked for four years under Shaw, whom she said “treats me like a daughter” and is “the closest thing to a father figure to me.” Shaw now coordinates the Raiders’ strength and conditioning department. She credits the mentor for the respect and support received, be it in Florida or here in California.

But she is plenty responsible for that reception, too.

Martinez can stand on her own merit. For example, Cowser credits her for refining his sprint technique. Once in Orlando, she watched his movement and suggested he focus on pushing off the ground more with his feet when he explodes to run. Cowser did so and followed with his best recorded time in the drill, he said.

“She’s super awesome,” Cowser, 27, said. “I mean, there’s a reason I went to Tom Shaw in the offseason, right? When I first met her, from the beginning, she opens her mouth, and you instantly know she knows what she’s talking about. It’s the same reaction here with all the guys. At first glance, you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s a woman.’ And then they start talking, and it’s, ‘Oh, that’s a coach.’ You know what I mean? It’s that instant switch of, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ to, ‘Oh, I need to get my feet up.’

“It instantly becomes business, and that’s what it’s all about. I think that’s a testament to her and who she is because she’s able to get us to switch into work mode. We don’t think about male-female whatever. It’s just business and how can we get better.”

‘You can’t limit yourself’

Martinez grew up in Pueblo, Colorado.

A softball standout, she played outfield at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, before transferring closer to home. She ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Colorado State University, but her education continued under Shaw’s tutelage.

This offseason, the Raiders have noticed results from their strength and conditioning department. Perhaps no position group exemplifies this more than offensive line, a group that collectively struggled this spring to keep up with the pace that coach Tom Cable dictated during individual drills.

Tackle David Sharpe, guard Jordan Simmons and guard Denver Kirkland are among those who followed a personalized plan, lost weight and showed improvement in camp.

Martinez is focused on inspiring such success stories. Yet, she inspires more.

Running backs coach Jemal Singleton and his wife have a young daughter. He has thanked Martinez for being an example to her. Months ago, special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia had dinner with different members of the strength and conditioning staff, including Martinez and Shaw.

He thanked her, too.

“I have five sisters, and I have three daughters,” Bisaccia said. “For them to be able to, along with all other females, see that she’s accomplished this goal is going to give them a chance to realize, ‘Wow, this is a path I can take.’ … She carries herself extremely professionally. She’s incredibly knowledgeable in what she’s trying to teach these guys. She hasn’t missed a beat with the players. …

“Once a pro player feels like you’re knowledgeable and you can help them get better, they’re going to listen to you. And I feel like with Kelsey, that was evident right away, not only to the coaches but certainly to the players.”

For the New York Jets, Lee Brandon is widely credited as having become the NFL’s first female strength and conditioning assistant. That was 1990.

All these years later, an NFL weight room remains a male-dominated setting. None of the league’s other 31 teams have a woman listed on their strength and conditioning staff, according to the directory page posted on each club’s website.

A message accompanies Martinez’ journey.

It can apply to any gender.

“Don’t create limits on yourself,” Martinez said. “There’s many excuses or whatever that can be made, but at the end of the day, what do you love to do? I was able to find what I love to do, and that’s working for Jon Gruden every day. ‘Do you love football?’ That’s his number one question. Do you love football? Do you love what you do? Why limit yourself or who you are if that’s what you want?

“I didn’t let that try to ever stop me. More than anything, I’m thinking of how young I am coming in here versus me being a girl. You can’t limit yourself.”

More Raiders: Follow online at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter. 

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Raiders Videos
Las Vegas Stadium Livecam
Vegas Nation Mailbag 10-16-2018
Elaine Wilson and Gilbert Manzano discuss The Raiders 27-3 loss to the Seahawks in London as The Raiders enter their bye week.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Fall To Seahawks; Cooper Out With Concussion
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken, Sports Columnist Ed Graney and sports writer Gilbert Manzano go over the Raiders loss to the Seattle Seahawks in London.
Derek Carr says the team will focus on improving – Heidi Fang
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr says the team will do what's necessary to improve following its 27-3 loss in London to the Seattle Seahawks.
Gruden on the Raiders loss to the Seahawks, Cooper's injury – Heidi Fang
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden talks to media following the team's 27-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in London, England.
A look at NFL sports betting in London
With the NFL introducing England to different teams each year since 2007, Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney asked fans in London ahead of the Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks how often they flock to them to place wagers on American football.
Would the NFL be accepted abroad?
Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney takes to the streets of London, England, ahead of the Oakland Raiders facing the Seattle Seahawks to find out if the NFL is accepted, if the game is understood and what its fan base is like outside of the United States.
Vegas Nation: Gruden Recaps Loss to LA Chargers
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken reports from Alameda, Calif. as the team looks ahead to London following a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Fall To 1-4 This Season
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken goes over the Raiders loss to the Chargers.
Raiders coordinators rave about Lynch's running style
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther talk about Marshawn Lynch's style of running, and what he means to the team.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Defense Looks to Prevent Big Plays
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken talks about the team's renewed focus on preventing big plays from the other team's offense, as the Raiders go into Los Angeles allowing the 27th most yards per game.
Vegas Nation Mailbag: Week 5
Elaine Wilson and Gilbert Manzano answer all your burning Raiders questions leading up to their week 5 match up with Chargers.
Vegas Nation: Raiders O-Line Battling Injuries
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken talks about Donald Penn being moved to the Raiders' injured reserve list, as well as other injuries on the team's offensive line.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Look Ahead to Rival L.A. Chargers
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken recaps the controversial calls in Sunday's victory over the Cleveland Browns, the effect Donald Penn's injury could bring, and the reinstatement of cornerback Daryl Worley.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Win Close Game Against Browns In OT
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken, sports columnist Ed Graney and sports writer Gilbert Manzano goes over the Raiders overtime win against the Cleveland Browns.
Vegas Nation: McCrane, rookie specialists practice at Coliseum on Friday
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken talks about how the team's rookie kicker, holder and long snapper are preparing for kicking off the Coliseum dirt. Gehlken also provides an injury update ahead of the Raiders' Week 4 game against the Cleveland Browns.
Vegas Nation: Paul Guenther Speaks on New Rules
Bryan Salmond is in studio as beat writer Michael Gehlken reports from Alameda where Paul Guenther spoke out about the new roghing the passer rules on the NFL.
Raiders Stadium Construction - Sept. 27, 2018
Raiders Stadium construction video on September 27th, 2018. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Nation: Derek Carr Speaks on Hayes Torn ACL
Host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat-writer Michael Gehlken cover William Hayes's torn ACL from Sundays game, in which he suffered from trying not to land on Derek Carr.
Vegas Nation Mailbag: Week 4
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Review-Journal sports writer Gilbert Manzano answer your burning questions about the Raiders and Jon Gruden.
Gruden, Carr critical of new roughing the passer rules
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden wants more clarity on new roughing the passer rules, while Carr reacts to Dolphins William Hayes' injury.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Prepare for the Browns
Host Bryan Salmond discusses the Raiders and Browns seasons so far before Sundays game.
Raiders Adopt Student Resource Room At Robert Taylor Elementary School In Henderson
Former Raiders player Leo Gray and Robert Taylor Elementary School principal Kim Basham talk about the new resource room at the school on Sept. 25, 2018 in Henderson, Nevada. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Nation: Nugent Suffers Injury in Miami
Raiders reporter Michael Gehlken talks about Mike Nugent's injury in Miami and the Raiders poor turnover differential through the team's first three games.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Drop to 0-3 with Loss to the Dolphins
Bryan Salmond and Gilbert Manzano are in studio while Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney report from Miami on the Raiders loss to the Miami Dolphins.
More information on design of Raiders' practice facility in Henderson
Officials plan to finish the Raiders' Henderson headquarters by spring 2020. The planned facility would be home to offices, training facilities and 4 1/2 football fields.
Vegas Nation: Raiders fall short in Week 1 to the Rams
Bryan Salmond and Gilbert Manzano are in studio recapping the first game of 2018 for the Oakland Raiders. Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney report from Oakland.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like