As part of the Rams' celebration of Women's History Month this month, the organization wants to inspire Angelenos through stories of female staff impacted by sports and now changing the game.
We kick off the series with Casey Africano of the player affairs team.
An external perception of sports is that it's all about competition, but for Casey Africano, it epitomizes the human experience – growth, learning, putting time into something you believe in, and working towards a goal.
She always wore the name of "team mom" proudly and took pride in encouraging her teammates – whether it was staying late until her pitcher found the perfect spin on her screw ball or ensuring the freshmen felt seen and valued. In those moments, that's when she said she felt the most herself, like she was living out her God-given purpose.
That foundation is what motivates her both inside and outside of her role within the Rams' player affairs team.
"Whatever I can do to let someone know they are heard, and that they matter, that's my purpose," Africano said. "That's my drive."
Naturally, working within that department lends itself to applying many of those experiences from her time playing sports.
The Rams' player affairs team handles a variety of responsibilities, supporting both present and past members of the team. That includes supporting the personal and professional well-being of current Rams players, while also working to create opportunities for our Legends community to stay connected to the organization.
"Day to day can change constantly, so we have learn to stay on our feet and be ready for whatever comes our way," Africano said. "But at the end of the day, it's about making sure our guys feel heard, supported, valued, and cared for."
Forming that connection – more specifically, celebrating off-the-field moments with players – is the best part of her job.
"Whether it's a new baby, an engagement or marriage, excitement about a new hobby or project, or hearing a story about one of their kids recitals, I feel extremely honored that they share those moments with me," Africano said. "Those conversations that allow us to connect as humans working towards the same goal brings me so much joy. All the little moments when I can help solve a problem or make someone's life easier in any way are what make me feel like I am living out a purpose, not just a position."
Africano credits her experience playing softball for shaping her into who she is today. Besides teaching her time management, responsibility, the importance of being part of a team, communication skills, dedication, and the balance of selflessness and competitiveness, she also met and grew up together with "smart, confident, talented, dedicated women" through typical teenage things like break ups, school dances, college applications, rejections and acceptances.
"I found myself on that field," Africano said. "Softball is an unforgiving sport, as baseball and softball players will tell you – you succeed only about 30% of the time. So not only are you learning a skill, but you are learning the patience and dedication of dealing with failure, and getting back up to the plate, literally. I wouldn't be here without my parents, coaches, teammates and their families I have known over the years. They made a profound impact on my life. I am a combination of countless people pouring into me, guiding me, and teaching me."
That same impact and investment is felt working with the Rams, and being seen through examples across multiple sports.
"Since we were little, the world has told us not to be too loud, or too strong, or too fast, or too big, or too small… But we are now falling into the footsteps of Serena Williams, Kim Ng, Allyson Felix, Megan Rapinoe, and Sue Bird – incredible women who are saying no, I will not fit your stereotypes, and I will exceed your expectations. Watch me," Africano said. "So in my eyes, this fight has been raging for generations. Especially by women of color and those in the LGBTQ community. Those voices deserve to be heard and elevated. I get to benefit from it, and have a responsibility to continue it. And I get to benefit from it, and continue it. Being in the NFL and with the Rams is an incredible opportunity, and one I accepted with pride, joining a team of talented and dedicated women on the football side who were here before me.
"There will always be those who assume less of us because we are women. But at the end of the day, our trials have led to our superpowers. We are resilient. We endure. We will look into the eyes of future young women and lift them up, as we have been. We will tell them with pride that they can do ANYTHING they want to do. And hopefully as the industry realizes this, we will continue having real life examples and representation in every sport."
When it comes to celebrating Women's History Month, Africano said it can be as simple as listening and watching a women's sports broadcast, or going to professional and collegiate women's basketball and soccer games, as well as buying jerseys.
"I promise, if you look into women's sports, you will find a vibrant, exciting, and insanely competitive world that has always been here. And we aren't going anywhere," Africano said. "Women are superheroes – I'm convinced. So tell the women in your life that they, and their experience, matters."