The Washington Metro area has seen its fair share of successful women coaches in sports. Brenda Frese has gained national recognition by leading the University of Maryland women’s basketball team to more than 200 wins and a national championship in just seven seasons. University of Maryland-Eastern Shore coach Sharon Brummell drew attention when she became the first woman to guide a school to the NCAA Bowling Championship in 2008.
But no one ever imagined witnessing a coach like Natalie Randolph, that is, until now.
Randolph, a 29-year-old biology and environmental science teacher, was introduced on March 12 as the new head coach of the varsity football team at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in the District. She’s believed to be the only female in the country to coach a high school varsity football squad, which explains why the news conference announcing her new position drew the interest of reporters from all around the United States. Even Mayor Adrian Fenty was on the scene to be a part of the historical moment; he proclaimed the day “Natalie Randolph Day” in the District.
Randolph embraced the honor of making history, but also explained the real reason she’s the new coach at Coolidge.
“While I’m proud to be part of what this all means, being female has nothing to do with it,” Randolph said. “I love football, I love teaching, and I love these kids…being female has nothing to do with my support and respect for my players on the field and in the classroom.”
The Washington native was selected over 14 other candidates to take over the vacant position at Coolidge. Her athletics resume includes her years served as a track star at University of Virginia, and six seasons played as a receiver for the D.C. Divas of the National Women’s Football Association. She helped the Divas win the league championship in 2006. Randolph also served as an assistant coach for H.D. Woodson’s football team during 2006-08.
Some folks criticized her role on Woodson’s staff, so doubt and criticism is expected to come twice as much now that she’s a head coach.
According to The Associated Press, even former NFL star Keith Bulluck posted on Twitter that he’s “not saying it can’t be done or shouldn’t be done. But football is clearly a man’s sport and it’s to be seen how young men take to their coach being a woman.”
But some of her young players have already embraced their female coach and are ready to go to battle for her.
“There’s nothing like proving somebody wrong,” Coolidge junior defensive tackle Daniel West told the media. “And I think that’s what we’re going to have to do this season, because a lot of people have something to say about her being our coach and I feel like it’s my duty and it’s the team’s duty to prove everybody wrong, to show that it doesn’t matter. As soon as we start winning, everybody will want to be on the bandwagon.”
Coolidge had a winning record of six wins and four losses last season, so it may not be difficult for Randolph to step in and keep the wins coming. She says she plans on motivating her players without yelling or being disrespectful.
“I’m probably more Tony Dungy-esque,” Randolph told reporters. “I’m soft-spoken, so yelling is not me. I’m going to be me. That’s what I do in the classroom. When I get observed, the observers say ‘I didn’t expect you to be able to handle this class,’ but I do what I have to do to get it done.”
One of the toughest feats for her will come when Coolidge takes on their city rival, Woodson, next season. Randolph may have left Woodson’s staff for Coolidge, but her fiancé didn’t. He still serves as Woodson’s offensive coordinator, which should make the game a very interesting matchup, to say the least.
“Good competition, good fun,” Randolph said in a message for Woodson. “I love you all over there, but we’re going to beat you on the field and go hang out later.”