There is a game before the actual football game that Lindsay Gately plays before every Commanders road trip. It is called "Find the Stadium's Women's Locker Room."
"It's always like, 'Alright, here's where everyone else's locker room is and everything that's going on for the game. In this spot,' and us [the women], we're, you know, around the corner, jump up and down, in the basement," Gately said. "A lot of times I'll get there the day before and find it so the next morning I'll tell Jennifer King, 'Okay, I know where it is let me see if I can find it again.'"
She describes the scenario with a bit of laugh -- same as when she talks about the deliveries of Commanders T-shirts that often go down to her knees (she's only 5-foot). Such is the life of a glass-ceiling breaker. Six months ago, Gately etched her name in Burgundy & Gold history when she was hired as the first female full-time member of Washington's athletic training staff.
Though her identity as a woman in a majority male space is a fact never far from her mind, Gately's time in Washington so far has given her a work family she loves and offered her the kind of professional fulfillment she has always strived for.
Her path into athletic training did not begin very organically. That is, she was not exposed to athletic training as a career possibility early in the way one might end up wanting to become a teacher or a doctor. Rather, Gately found her way into athletic training through an individual effort of putting the pieces together of various activities and fields she found intriguing.
Her older sister was pursuing physical therapy in college. That was cool, she thought. And, as a lifelong athlete with an increased interest in lifting as she got older, learning how to maximize performance was intriguing.
"Athletic training was this really awesome hybrid, it kind of sat at the intersection of all these things I loved and found really interesting," Gately said.
Also in that mix that interested her was the deeper human connection aspect of athletic training.
"It was cool to watch how close the athletes were with their athletic trainers," Gately said. "They would come in and start talking about their day at school, what was bothering them or their dating troubles, things like that. The relationship aspect was really appealing to me."
All these factors were compelling enough to push her to pursue athletic training at the University of Pittsburgh. The program came with a host of incredibly valuable educational experiences for Gately -- from working a myriad of sports at a local high school to getting right in the action at the ACC level. At Pitt, she also got her first taste of working in football -- both with the Pitt Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. She was hooked.
"One of my favorite elements of football is the large team environment and not just being by myself on an island with certain things," Gately said. "I'm bouncing ideas off my fellow athletic trainers all the time. We're all getting together and discussing cases. It's never really just one person thinking about what's best for the person or the athlete."
After some stints working in several different sports after undergrad, Gately slowly started to become more immersed in the world of football. She was a seasonal athletic trainer with the 49ers. Then, she became an athletic trainer for Wake Forest's football team.
It was while working with the Deacon Demons last fall, smack in the middle of the college and NFL football seasons, that she learned about the opportunity with the Commanders. Though she was happy at Wake Forest, the ever-determined Gately (she did not get 11 letters at the end of her last name from being complacent, after all) felt nudged to go for it.
"I wanted to prove that I was the best version of an athletic trainer/physical therapist that I could be," Gately said of her mindset ahead of applying.
The further she got into the interview process and the more conversations she had with the Commanders, the more excited Gately got about the prospect of joining Washington's staff.
"I could immediately tell everyone was super welcoming and that they'd be easy to get along with," Gately said. "So, on one hand, I was thinking 'Alright, it might be a little hectic to start midseason,' but the interview process kind of helped confirm that they would be a group that I could fit into right away and that they'd have my back."
What was not at the forefront of her brain when she was eventually offered the job was the thought that news of her hiring might make a little bit of a splash.
"I was certainly aware of which teams had women on their staff and which didn't," Gately said. "But when the press release came out, I was like 'Oh my God, this is actually a bigger deal than I thought it was. This is pretty cool.'"
Washington's first full-time female athletic trainer. Gately did not dwell much on the occasion or get wrapped up in any hoopla. Instead, she got right to work, putting in 12-plus-hour days to deliver the best care possible to Commanders players.
Throughout her time here, she has loved developing rehab plans and learning new, cutting-edge ways to get the best out of the guys. She gets giddy about the expertise, the world-class doctors, with which she gets to collaborate.
Her favorite part though? It is, at its core, what moved her when she was just getting started a decade ago: it's developing relationships by being who you are.
"Presenting the truest version of yourself is so important. In the training room, they're going through hard things or they're bored, and they just end up spending so much time in there. It's a disservice to you, to them, to what we're trying to accomplish to not be yourself," Gately said.
Every day, Gately is inspired to come to work as her authentic self so that the athletes she cares for feel comfortable with, trusted by and connected to her. That, she has realized, is among the greatest treatments she can provide.