Lauren Gaudette’s passion for football was born during seemingly endless hours in a hospital bed.
“I had a lot of operations growing up,” said Gaudette, who was born with Spina bifida and bilateral club feet. “I was in the hospital a lot, and on the weekends kids shows weren’t on TV. Football was on the TV, and I think that sparked my love from a real young age.”
Despite physical challenges — she works through hearing loss of over 90% and has undergone surgeries on her hips and bladder — and the inevitable challenges of proving herself as a woman in football, Gaudette has established herself as one of the premiere assistant football coaches in New Hampshire.
This fall season marks Gaudette’s first as assistant head football coach for Windham High, which kicks off its season Sept. 4, hosting Pinkerton at 1:30 p.m. She will also serve as the head JV and freshman coach.
“I’m extremely excited to join the Windham staff,” said the 4-foot-6 Gaudette, who previously served as an assistant at Nashua South and Londonderry.
“I’ve known (Windham head) coach (Jack) Byrne for a long time now, and I’m very excited for the opportunity to coach with him and everyone else on the staff for this very successful program.”
Byrne, now in his third season as Windham head coach after a decade as defensive coordinator, is overjoyed to have the 33-year-old Gaudette — a lifelong resident of Nashua — on his staff.
“Lauren has basically become a co-head coach with me,” said Byrne. “She really fills the gaps in areas of coaching I’m not great at. I can’t believe what she has accomplished so far this preseason. She makes the whole program work smoother.
“When it comes to being a woman, and everything else, she’s just such a good coach that it makes it not a big deal day-to-day. She pushes through everything so quickly, and is so confident in her own skin, that she just owns it. It doesn’t take long for people to understand she is the best person for the job.”
OVERCOME HEALTH ISSUES
While it hasn’t always been easy for Gaudette, she isn’t about to dwell on her health battles.
“I am not sure I would call them ‘challenges,’” said Gaudette, who also was born with cloacal exstrophy, which affects the abdomen. “They’re something I’ve always had and I don’t know anything else. Some times that have been hard, yes but it helped make me what I’ve become.
“But I do have daily soreness some days after intense physical activity I can’t do a whole lot, but I make it through my day! I don’t walk normal or run normal, I’m shorter in height and I can’t do some other physical activities, but I love golfing, hiking and working out whenever I get time!”
Gaudette has also found ways to deal with her hearing loss while coaching.
“My hearing loss is in the ‘profound’ category which means I’ve lost 90%-plus of my hearing without my hearing aids,” she said. “It causes a lot of problems, but I know basic lip reading skills, and we all find a way to make things work. In huddles, it can be very chaotic for me, but we all get on the same page at the end.”
WOMAN COACHING FOOTBALL
Gaudette is a member of a select group of females to coach football at the high school level, and she saviors that role.
“There have been maybe a few eyebrows raised at me until I throw the perfect spiral and the players start to see that I know the game,” she said. “I’ve had a great experience and had great mentors over the 15 years I’ve coached football. They have been so open and accepting of me. I’ve never had any negative comments.”
Gaudette’s coaching career began, unofficially, as a student at Nashua South (class of 2007) when she became a manager for the Panthers.
She joined the Nashua South coaching staff while a student at Nashua Community College, where she earned her associates degree in speech and language pathology.
A teaching assistant at Matthew Thornton Elementary School in Londonderry, Gaudette joined the Londonderry football staff in 2018.
“She talks better Xs and Os than a lot of people I know that coach,” Lancers coach Jimmy Lauzon told WMUR. “It was a no-brainer to bring her to our staff.”
In 2020, Gaudette was one of 40 people invited to the NFL’s Women Career in Football Forum in Indianapolis.
“I met other women in football and it was amazing,” she said. “ I just love coaching football.”
Gaudette first caught the eye of Byrne a decade ago.
“We used to take part in this camp at Nashua South that was sponsored by the National Guard,” said Byrne. “Lauren was helping out and she was impressive. We kept in touch over the last 10 years.”
After coaching against Gaudette during her time at Londonderry, Byrne offered her a job this summer.
“Jimmy (Lauzon) and I are close, and I told Jimmy I wanted to offer Lauren a serious promotion (to assistant head coach),” said Byrne “I would never ask someone to leave another team unless it was a major promotion, and we were able to offer her that.
“Lauren’s as unique as they come. You look at her on the sidelines, and she just makes you forget everything so quick. She loves who she is, and she loves coaching football. She’s willing to do all the hard things to become a better coach. Her scouting reports and film breakdown are amazing. She has the whole program moving better.”
Gaudette hopes this is a stepping stone to an even bigger job.
“My goal in life is to be a head coach at the next level, in high school or college,” she said. “I just love coaching and being around young athletes and my colleagues. If I can make it my full-time job, I’ll be satisfied.”
While football may be a major passion, it’s not Windham assistant head coach Lauren Gaudette’s only love.
Gaudette is the boys JV basketball coach at Nashua South, and the throws coach for the Manchester Memorial track team, specializing in the javelin.
She threw the javelin in high school at Nashua South, and participated in various sports in the Special Olympics. She was one of 173 athletes to compete in the Special Olympics USA National Games Golf Tournament in 2010.