May 31, 2024

O’Leary: Rachel Bayer’s unique Women In Football experience

Over the last three weeks, Rachel Bayer could look out onto the practice field at the BC Lions’ training camp in Kamloops, B.C. and see people like her out there.

Working in football operations and partnerships with the Lions as part of the Women In Football Program presented by KPMG, she saw Tanya Henderson, venturing into her third season as the team’s assistant defensive backs coach. Working all over the field was Jay Starecki, who has been hired on as an assistant equipment manager with the team, after first working with the club through the Women In Football Program in 2023 (the two are pictured above, with Bayer on the left and Starecki on the right).

“I think it’s one of those things where it’s just what I’ve seen since I arrived on May 7, so it doesn’t even really feel different,” Bayer said this week as the Lions’ camp wrapped up.

“(When) I break it down it is cool, because I’ve gotten to spend time talking to Tanya, talking about this program. We were saying it’s so nice and we hope to see it in other organizations and at lower age groups and points of influence. Then with Jay, obviously, she’s a prime example of how (the program) can really benefit somebody or even open your eyes to something you maybe didn’t know you wanted to do.”

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Bayer (second from the right), along with other Lions’ interning athletic trainers, sang O Canada for the team one day during training camp in Kamloops (

Bayer felt like she got firsthand exposure to the Lions’ environment over the last few weeks. While she was brought in on the football operations and partnerships side and had responsibilities there, the club made itself an open book to her in her time there. She’s shadowed the people that work in equipment management; she’s sat in on podcast production with the media team and traveled to Calgary for the Lions’ preseason game and helped with film work.

“A little bit of everything, in the best way,” she described it.

That spectrum of experience is something she will take back to her job at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, QC, where she’s been a marketing, sponsorships and home events coordinator for the Gaiters for almost three years now. Already working in the world of sports, Bayer really gained an appreciation for how the behind-the-scenes work around a team contributes to its success.

“I’m really open to anything,” she said of an ultimate career destination, “but I think what I have the most passion in is the off-the-field stuff that still really affects the players. So their day-to-day. With equipment, I think that’s why I thought it was so interesting because it’s not on the field, but it affects the on-the-field (aspect) so much.

“Then I like the football ops side of things that involves travel and meals and planning for them. I will say I’m less passionate about the media side of it if I’m honest, but I do think that’s really cool and it was interesting to compare it from what I see at the university level to what they do here. It’s an operation, it’s really impressive and they do it with not a very big team.

“I would say my dream would be to work semi-pro, pro, wherever it takes me, in the off-the-field (area) that really still focuses on the players on the field.”

Every day presented new learning opportunities, which Bayer greatly appreciated. As she heads back to Sherbrooke, she’ll continue to think about the atmosphere that she was able to be a part of in Kamloops.

“I think the biggest thing that I’ve taken away…was just that I’m shocked at how — not that I thought anyone wouldn’t be welcoming — but how overly open everyone was to letting me ask them anything and learn anything,” she said. “And just the uniqueness that Jay (Starecki) is back here, I think that’s a super cool example of how the program can work and is actively working.”

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