How is the only high school female football coach doing?

14 09 2010

Last May there was a lot of media coverage about Natalie Randolph, who was hired as the Head Football Coach for Coolidge High School in Washington DC. This fall she and her team are back in the media as the team’s results are being scrutinized. Currently the team is 0-3. My point is not to highlight the team’s record, but to highlight that THIS team’s record is getting national media attention where the many other football teams across the country which are also 0-3 are not.

Coach Natalie Randolph

Randolph should be celebrated, not scrutinized. While her on field results in terms of W/L record is a losing one, there are other outcomes that should be considered, but are often overlooked:

1. Her presence may allow females who love the game to consider playing and coaching football as a viable option. Many girls and women love football just as much as men, but given they 0ften are discouraged or aren’t allowed to play when they desire to, the pathway to playing and coaching the game they love contains many barriers.

2. I’m certain seeing and experiencing a female football coach has provided the opportunity for the young men on her team (and community members) to challenge the stereotypes some likely have about women, leadership, coaching and football.

3. From her interviews and feedback of those familiar with the program, it sounds like she is teaching her team both football and life skills simultaneously , and that is all that we can hope for and ask of any high school coach.

Women coach boys must possess a high degree of athletic capital to coach football or male athletes in general. In fact only 2% of all coaches of male athletes are female, a statistic that has remained remarkably stable even 38 years after Title IX which drastically increased the number female sport participants and the sport expertise of females. Randolph possesses a great deal of athletic capital as a former D-I athlete, professional football player in the WPFL, and assistant high school football coach–experiences which afforded her the opportunity and consideration for the job.  While men are assumed to be competent coaches even if they have never really played the sport, female coaches must continually prove themselves competent above and beyond their male colleagues. It is unlikely a female who never played football would never be hired to coach, but there are many men who have been hired to coach a sport they never played or didn’t play at a high level.

The interesting issue to me in the media coverage of Randolph’s coaching debut is the implicit assumption that effective football coaching resides on the Y-chromosome. No where in the coaching science literature have I read this, but it is a common belief nonetheless. If this assumption is true, then there must be quite a few male football coaches missing the Y-chromosome because their teams have losing records too! While I doubt the  floodgates for women to coach football are going to burst open wide, I hope Randolph’s presence will help challenge and change some outdated thinking patterns.

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A Female Head High School Football Coach!

12 03 2010

Yeah! Natalie Randolph was named the head high school football coach for the Coolidge High School in Northwest Washington DC. Randolph comes to the position as an accomplished athlete with a great deal of “athletic capital”. She was a sprinter at the University of Virginia, and went on to play for the Divas of the Independent Women’s Professional League from 2004 to 2008.

This appointment is historic! While it would be hard to track down the exact statistics on the number of female head football coaches over time, I’m fairly sure the number would be very small. The data we do have shows that females comprise about 2% of coaches for boys’ teams, and when women do coach boys they are most often coaches of “non-revenue” sports such as swimming, track & field, or tennis.  Additionally, when women coach boys must possess a high degree of athletic capital. While men are assumed to be competent coaches even if they have never really played the sport, female coaches must continually prove themselves competent. A woman who never played football would never be hired to coach, but there are many men who have been hired to coach a sport they never played or didn’t play at a high level.

So helmets off to Natalie Randolph! I would love to see more and more women play and coach football. Many women love the game just as much as men, but given they aren’t allowed to play when they want to, the pathway to coaching the game they love is blocked with insurmountable barriers. Congrats to Randolph for breaking some tackles and clearing the running route a little bit for those women who desire to coach football.





What do Online College Coach Biographies Tell Us About Inclusivity?

15 10 2009

See a guest column I wrote with graduate student Austin Stair Calhoun for the Women’s Sports Foundation, It Takes a Team newsletter titled: What Can Online Intercollegiate Coach Biographies Tell Us About Inclusivity and Tolerance of Diverse Sexual Orientations?

In a previous blog I posted our pilot study poster and results about this project. We’re currently finishing the data collection and analysis (with undergraduate Alicia Johnson, Minnesota State) for a full-scale national study which replicates the pilot. Stay tuned!





Where are the Photographs of Female Coaches?

14 10 2009

As part of my research and outreach I’m always trying to track down pictures of female coaches, specifically at the youth level, that don’t look “staged”. I’ve looked in most all the photo websites like IStock Photo, and when you type in “female coaches”…well just try it and see for yourself. The choices are really pathetic—similar to the  image you see here (not from IStock). coach-mom_baseballIn fact, if you only looked at the pictures you can find on these type of sites– or anywhere for that matter— you’d wonder if legitimate female coaches exist at youth or interscholastic levels.

I’ve had my colleagues and graduate students look as well, in case I was missing something or not searching correctly or in the right spots. Same result. When I needed images for the website of my new initiative to increase the number of female coaches, We Coach: Educating & Empowering Through Sport, I had to email female coaching friends  for images of themselves.

This blog was inspired when I got notice today from WordPress.com that I could have access to pictures on PicApp.com, a site I had not previously been aware of. I immediately went to their site and typed in “coaches” and 3,829 images on 64 pages came up. Here is an example of what you will see–male coaches in action, in uniform, on the field looking competent and in charge. [picapp src=”e/5/7/a/Georgia_Southern_v_69ab.jpg?adImageId=5443390&imageId=6769230″ width=”234″ height=”150″ /] [picapp src=”6/1/2/f/Pistons_vs_Hawks_f5db.JPG?adImageId=5556926&imageId=6783389″ width=”234″ height=”159″ /]What you will not see are pictures of female coaches. I gave up looking for a female coach after the 5th page of images (sigh). (NOTE: I wrote this blog last night, and when I went in today the first images are from the Women’s Sport Foundation Annual Salute to Women’s Sport, including a few of Pat Summitt, the most winning-est coach in collegiate basketball. However, the images of Summitt are not in action, on the court, or in coaching attire, which sends a very different message about coaching competence compared to the images of the male coaches on the page)

Next I typed in “female coaches” resulting in 475 images on 8 pages. The first image is picture of Nadal signing autographs—not sure what this picture has to do with female coaches? The second image is this woman, who in my opinion doesn’t exactly look like a coach.
[picapp src=”c/f/b/e/Rafael_Nadal_Pre_41d7.jpg?adImageId=5557660&imageId=5606384″ width=”234″ height=”316″ /] [picapp src=”9/0/3/e/PicImg_Sarah_Gronert_in_f773.JPG?adImageId=5558108&imageId=4527814″ width=”234″ height=”332″ /]
The ironic part is the search for “female coaches” elicited more pictures of male coaches than female coaches, but when you search for “coaches” only pictures of real male coaches in action show up. (Note: the pics of Summitt mentioned previously do NOT appear on the “female coaches” page)

If you have the skills, passion, and time…please take some high resolution, pictures of female coaches in uniform, and “in action”. When I say “in action” I mean in action while coaching. Take pictures of what it looks like to coach in a REAL game, match, meet, or practice. When you do, make them available somewhere and let me know where to find them! Or if you know of a site with good images of female coaches not at the collegiate level, please enlighten me.

The scarcity of images that portray athletic competence of female athletes is well documented and I’ve written about it previously, but the same portrayal pattern exists for female coaches. A lack of legitimate images virtually and literally erases female coaches which is not good for anyone. Where are the pictures of female coaches?