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Female CSU strength coach is blazing trail in college football

Hope Nepstad joins the Colorado State staff with new head coach Jay Norvell.

FORT COLLINS, Colorado — When Hope Nepstad walked into the athletic office as a freshman in Nevada, she had no idea what type of ground she'd be breaking or what type of lives she'd be changing.

"I just want to do my job, I just want to develop athletes, so it's never really in the forefront of my mind," she said. 

Nepstad is in her first year with the Colorado State football team as an assistant strength and speed coach.

"When I take a step back to think about it, it's honestly profound," Nepstad said.

Nepstad began her strength and conditioning career as a freshman intern with the Wolf Pack athletic department, receiving hands-on experience programming workouts for Olympic sports.

When the pandemic hit in 2020 during her junior year, Nevada was unable to hire a fifth full-time assistant athletic trainer, and leaned on Nepstad more heavily. She credits that with being introduced to the football department and eventually being hired upon graduation by former head football coach Jay Norvell and Jordan Simmons, head strength and conditioning coach.

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Credit: KUSA Sports

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Norvell brought most of his staff from Nevada along with him to Colorado State when he was hired in December 2021, including Simmons.

Nepstad was also retained in the move from Reno to Fort Collins, and the newly 23-year-old looks at this opportunity as a clean slate for players to see her as a respected coach, rather than a peer.

"First and foremost, respect is definitely earned, it's not given, and at this point I would say that I've earned that respect from a lot of them. They definitely know that I know what I'm doing," she said. "When I was brought on staff, there was a standard set, like this is your coach and you're going to respect her and you're not going to mess with her and that's the way it is. So, I know that they have my back, the coaching staff upstairs has my back, and my players have my back."

Having the support of men, she said, is one of the most important steps in reaching fully equality in both sports and leadership.

"It makes me a little bit emotional, honestly, just thinking about it. I've been blessed to work with some of the most incredible men on the face of this earth, and I say that with so much certainty," she said. "We work together, we uplift each other, we're encouraging, it's just a very positive work environment. If we can do that on a larger scale, the impact it could have would be incredible."

With only a year of professional experience under her belt, Nepstad is already leaving a lasting legacy.

"I didn't just get here on my own. It was paved with a lot of other people's hard work and belief in myself," she said. "Everybody's just got to work hard and we can get rid of the labels and benefit the athletes to get them where they need to be, because at the end of the day, it's about them."

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