Bailey Smith is getting her kicks breaking down barriers in a male-dominated sport.
One day, the 2013 Tokay High graduate would like to run her own high school soccer program. But for now, she’s preparing for her second season as an assistant coach on the Tokay High football team, as the kicking coach. Smith is one of less than a half-dozen women in the section who are coaching football on any level.
“Still growing and learning the game of football besides kicking,” Smith said about her role. “I stand back and listen a lot. I’m an observer and also a hands-on person; I like to see things in action. I don’t necessarily love to sit down and look at a playbook. The other coaches have been real good about that. Ask a lot of questions, watched some films.”
According to Smith, 24, and Tokay High football coach Michael Holst, Smith should be seeing an expanded role with the team this season. That would most likely be with the special teams, which covers kickoff, kickoff returns, punt and punt returns and point-after-touchdowns/field goals.
“The best thing about Bailey is that she is a go-getter,” Holst said. “She doesn’t wait for things to happen, she makes them happen and constantly brings in new and fresh ideas. She is continuing to evolve and learn the schematics of football. Technically and fundamentally with our kickers, she has been excellent. She’s continuing to learn the schematic elements of special teams.”
Smith has attended football coaching clinics this year.
“Sit down with some other special teams coordinators, and I got to learn some of their schemes as well,” Smith said. “That has been super helpful.”
Will DeBoard, who is the section’s assistant commissioner, estimated there are five women, counting Smith, who are coaching high school football in the section.
“It’s super rare,” DeBoard said.
The 5-foot-8 Smith enjoyed the first season of coaching the 2018 Tokay football team, although the Tigers are wanting to quickly forget the final numbers. Tokay posted an 0-10 record — one of 10 teams in the section that went winless.
“We had a lot of trials and tribulations last year,” Smith said. “We have this motto we call ‘trust the process’ and it’s really important that our team stands by that. I think a lot of the boys did, even though we did not see a result on the field last year. We learned so much from last season, the dos and don’ts of what we can do differently.”
Smith, who teaches second grade at Mosher Elementary School in Stockton, part of Lodi Unified School District, is looking forward to this season.
“We have a great group of boys right now who are very optimistic and ready to get out on the field, change that record around,” said Smith, “and it revs up us coaches. Everybody is working hard this season in spring ball and summer ball.”
Tokay will play its first two games of the season on the road, both non-league; at Patterson in the Week 0 opener on Friday, Aug. 23 and at Bear Creek on Friday, Aug. 30. Tokay welcomes Stagg, also another non-league game, at the Tigers’ revamped on-campus stadium, Hubbard Field, on Friday, Sept. 6.
After she graduated from Tokay High in 2013, Smith attended Fresno State. She was a part of the Bulldogs’ football program, as she worked her way up to the role as student equipment manager. Smith also played on the Fresno State club soccer team.
After she earned her bachelor’s degree at Fresno State in 2017, Smith picked her teaching credential from Stanislaus State in Turlock the following year. Then she reconnected with Holst about coaching football.
“It kind of just grew from there,” Smith said. “I thought it would be cool if I could come and help out. It just kind of flourish from there.”
What was the reaction of the 2017 Tokay football players when Smith stepped onto the field for her first season?
“They just kind of accept it,” Smith said. “It wasn’t a big deal to them. We all got along very well. They didn’t act any differently when I was out there.”
Smith got into football with the 2012 Tokay High football team, which posted a 7-4 record that included a section Division I playoff berth, Smith booted 46 of 48 extra-points, and also kicked a 35-yard field goal. She still holds the school record for most PATs made in a season.
“She was nails,” said Holst, who was the defensive coordinator of that squad. “She missed her very first point-after-touchdown, but was (almost) perfect on the rest of them. It never bugged her that she was crossing into a male-dominated sport and she went head first into earning her role on the team.”
Smith still recalls to this day the reaction of the guys on the 2012 Tokay squad.
“The boys’ reaction was a lot different,” Smith said. “They kind of thought that I wouldn’t take as seriously as they would. Quickly did they learn that I was there to actually play; I was not messing around. It took them about a good week, two weeks to warm up to the idea. Then we all kind of came together as one big family.”
Smith also played on the school’s soccer and volleyball teams. She was one of two captains on the 2013 Tokay High girls soccer team that posted an 11-5-3 record. A forward, Smith had eight goals that season. A junior on the 2011 Tokay High volleyball team, Smith, an outside hitter, had 50 kills and 44 digs.
Smith is also the Tokay High junior varsity girls soccer head coach. Last winter, she told her players that she would like to see some of them try out as a kicker for the Tokay football team.
“I would love for one of my girls to come out and be our kickers,” Smith said. “It’s that nerve that they have to get over. I think one girl will break one day will come out and kick for me. I definitely know that some of those girls can kick better than some of the boys out there.”
Contact Mike Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.