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.