Sunday, August 8, 2010


I don't watch the 4-letter anymore, except for games, because – well, because I can't stand it. So I missed this. You've probably seen a ton of TV coverage on this, if not there then on the Today Show or CBS News or NPR or whatever. But I just stumbled on it.

Here's your new head football coach at Coolidge High School, in DC:

That's Natalie Randolph, 29-year-old biology and environmental sciences teacher, and former track athlete (hurdles at UVa). Oh yeah, and former WR for 6 seasons with the D.C. Divas women's professional football team.
Coverage from the Washington Post:

Natalie Randolph takes reins at Coolidge High
The room fell silent. Teenage boys twice the size of their 5-foot-5, 130-pound coach had no retort. Randolph, who in March became one of just a handful of women ever to be named head coach of a high school football team, pounded her thigh to show she still has some muscle from her days as a hurdler at the University of Virginia and wide receiver for the D.C. Divas women's professional football team.
When Randolph, 30, stands before her players for their first practice Friday at Coolidge, she will hardly be an unknown commodity. In the nearly five months since the March 12 announcement of her hiring attracted national media coverage, a proclamation from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, and a spotlight on the Coolidge team, Randolph got to better know her players without the cameras present. Among her summer projects with the Colts: Organizing an SAT preparation class, implementing a complex conditioning program, and having her players regularly clean the Brightwood school's classrooms and athletic facilities. ...
On the field, her personality is atypical of the football coaching archetype; bombast and intimidation are not her usual calling cards, nor does she seek the spotlight.
In 2006, she began teaching environmental science at H.D. Woodson, where she also became a wide receivers coach . Even with a master's degree in education, Randolph said teaching in D.C. public schools required her to improvise her teaching methods. Students tend to equate her petite frame and high voice with someone easily intimidated.
"Did I think it would be this crazy?" Randolph said, "No. I thought it would be crazy for a month, then I thought it would die down."
One donation has come from the NFL Players Association for transportation for the team to spend last weekend at a camp in Pennsylvania; another donation has come from a Pittsburgh company, which is providing the team with uniforms and equipment. "We do need help in this city, and [Coolidge] isn't the only one," Randolph said. "All the media [attention] helps. The kids are going to get more visibility. The school, the city will benefit, too."
Man, she looks and sounds like a football coach.

Here's more from the Post, a different article:
Coolidge, Randolph stay focused
"There's just so much to do," she said. "I'm not even sure what to do next." Once she blew the first whistle, though, Randolph appeared in her element, running players through drills and officially beginning the season as just one of a handful of women ever to lead a high school football program.
The Colts had grown accustomed to Randolph's leadership over the summer, adhering to her detailed conditioning program five days a week. That program was a major reason they were surprised by their lack of fatigue. "We must not be human," senior Daniel West told his teammates during a water break, "because humans would get tired in this heat. We ain't tired."
her attention to detail and preparation were among the talents that the school's coaching search committee said set Randolph apart. It was apparent throughout the three-hour workout, notably as she ran players through a footwork drill in which they tiptoed through a ladder on the ground.
"Don't mess up my ladder," she warned players as they ran through the exercise. "Keep my ladder straight." ...
That's two articles mentioning her "complex" or "detailed" conditioning program, which I find notable.

Here's two pieces on her hiring back in March. One:
Natalie Randolph to coach Coolidge High School football team
In Natalie Randolph's first season as wide receivers coach at H.D. Woodson High School in the District a few years ago, one of the most difficult moments each week came at the end of the game when the two teams lined up for their traditional handshake.

"I hate shaking hands," she said at the time, "because they walk right past me and don't realize I'm a coach."
Randolph, a 1998 graduate of Sidwell Friends and former sprinter at the University of Virginia, is hardly a football newbie. She was a receiver for the Divas of the Independent Women's Professional League from 2004 to 2008 and an assistant at H.D. Woodson in 2006 and '07. She joined the Coolidge faculty in 2008 but has not coached the previous two seasons.

"She can do it," said H.D. Woodson Coach Greg Fuller, who hired Randolph as an assistant in 2006. "She's a no-nonsense kind of coach. She's a disciplinarian. She handled [the questions about being a woman coaching football] very well because she takes on any challenge you put in front of her."

No one is believed to have kept records on the number of women who have coached football in the United States, although the number is small. According to Sydney Chambers of the Clell Wade Coaches Directory, which maintains a database of all coaches at U.S. colleges, high schools and junior high schools, there was no woman listed among the 15,675 public or private high school football coaches last season.
Randolph was introduced to the Coolidge team after school on Tuesday, according to a person who was at the meeting. The boys on the team displayed some initial skepticism, this person said, but Randolph won them over.

"Some of the kids tried to test her knowledge of football, and she just shot them down," said the individual, who asked not to be identified because school officials requested that the information not be made public until Friday. "At the end, they were clapping for her. They didn't know she played football."

While Randolph had the power to discipline the players on the H.D. Woodson team when she was an assistant, she said she had to work harder to establish herself with the other coaches on the Warriors' staff. "After the first week, I had more apprehension about the other coaches than about the players," she told The Post in 2006. "It was about proving myself to the other coaches."
DC High School Appoints First Female Football Coach
She stood out among the more than 15 applicants, who include former N.F.L. players, Pop Warner coaches and even a retired Army general, because she promised to help the players in the classroom as much as on the field. Calvin Coolidge Senior High School consistently battles academic records that are less than stellar and Randolph brings to the table structure and discipline.
Makes a great point about her academic background. I also like the bit about the SAT prep class (first article), and her quote about how the media attention can mean help for the school and/or the District. She really sounds like a coach who is focused on all the right things.

When we look at the NFL coaching carousel, I give succeed-or-fail predictions, and one of the things I usually note is the asst coaches on staff. That's completely inappropriate for a high school coach: for a number or reasons, but mostly because (as her own quotes indicate) winning and losing are not the main criteria for judging a HS coach's success. However, along the lines of the Carousel, let's note who she has as OL coach:
Baltimore Examiner
Since becoming head coach, Randolph has taken on seven volunteer assistant coaches, including D.C. legend, Bob Headen, who retired after 25 years as the head football coach at Woodson, where he won eight championships and sent a handful of players into the NFL. "I told her I would mentor her and I would coach the line," Headen said. "Look at her background. She went to a prestigious school (Virginia) and she earned a scholarship. She was not handed one. And she's got six years of professional football. She's got the experience.
When you have a legendary head coach serving as your O-line coach, that's a powerful asset.

Coolidge's first game is Aug. 27 against Archbishop Carroll. Go Colts!


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