It was supposed to be history – the first woman to ever compete in a regional NFL scouting combine. But after an embarrassing tryout that saw 28-year-old Lauren Silberman squib just two kicks less than 20 yards, a lot of people are blasting the apparent publicity stunt as an insult to all women.
Fatsis has a unique perspective on the issue. He dedicated a year of his life training to kick for his book “A Few Seconds of Panic,” which chronicled his experiences as a rookie placekicker in the Denver Broncos training camp back in 2007.
Fatsis said kicking a football is among the most difficult athletic pursuits out there, requiring an incredible amount of coordination and strength. And while he’s seen a number of women with the skill to do it (like former soccer star Mia Hamm, who Fatsis says was able to drill the ball over 50 yards in a workout with the Kansas City Chiefs), Fatsis said Silberman’s complete incompetence was nothing short of an embarrassment for women and the sport.
“She was inferior because she had no idea what she was doing. It wasn’t because she was a woman. I didn’t even get the sense that she knew how to play soccer,” he said of Silberman’s claims to have formerly played club soccer in college.
Silberman claimed afterwards she had suffered an injury while practicing prior to the tryout at the New York Jets training facility, resulting in her poor performance.
But it was immediately apparent from her attempt to kick the ball straight on with her toe that she had no idea how to kick a football.
“I’m not even going to try to be diplomatic here. This appeared to me to be a complete publicity stunt on the part of this woman. She did not look like an athlete in anyway.”
Silberman told ABC News it had always been a lifelong dream to try out and she hoped the effort sent a strong message to girls.
“I’m glad that now they have a visual model of someone in a role that they might not have perceived that women could be in,” she said.
But Fatsis said the only statement she made was showing women couldn’t compete. He shared it took a year of rigorous training to be able to consistently kick the ball over 40 yards, suffering numerous strains, sprains and muscle pulls along the way. But along with the physical demands, he said the pressure of doing it in front of hundreds of people added a whole other element that crippled his kicking when the chips were down.
“My undoing in front of my teammates wasn’t that I couldn’t kick the ball 40 yards. It was that I had never experienced that kind of pressure. And maybe Laura Silberman was feeling that kind of pressure,” he said.
Still, he said at least he had earned some level of credibility with his preparation – something Silberman clearly didn’t do before taking the field.
“You’ve got to gain that credibility by showing that you’ve tried. And I had no sense from watching the video of this woman and listening to her talk that she had tried,” he said.
And as the parent of an 11-year-old daughter with athletic aspirations, he worries about the negative impact of Silberman’s poor performance on all young women.