Female football coach: The real challenge
As a woman who is extremely passionate about the game of football, has tremendous respect for players and coaches, and has been on the sidelines in various capacities since I was little (think Sheryl Yoast, the daughter in Remember The Titans), I should have been thrilled when the news broke last week that Coolidge High School in D.C. named Natalie Randolph as their Varsity Head Football Coach.
Can Randolph coach men's varsity football? Absolutely. Should a woman break that barrier and pursue that role? That's where I am struggling. My fear is she will not have the support she needs to be successful in her new leadership role. Then, if she fails, the conclusion will be that she failed because she was a woman, not because she was a lone ranger by default.
I have tremendous respect for Randolph. She has excellent technical knowledge of the game, she has played women's professional football, and she has also demonstrated success as an assistant coach at H.D. Woodson High School. She is well regarded as a science teacher, and coaching IS teaching, first and foremost. I was also pleased to hear the school's principal, Thelma Jarrett, selected Ms. Randolph because she was committed to the kids rather than being focused on her own career and accomplishments.
The shift in duties from assistant coach to head coach is dramatic and any first-time head coach benefits from mentoring. Football is a team sport - coaching included - and Randolph will have to have the loyalty of her players and staff as well as the respect and support of her peers. In order to succeed in this role, Randolph needs to be part of the larger coaching community so she can keep abreast of the latest innovations as well as ensure her talented athletes get to the right college programs. If Randolph is treated as an outsider, she simply will not be able to do everything that is best for her players and her program.
I am reminded of a poignant and personal example of this type of leadership challenge. My wonderful friend, David Kellermann, had all the raw material required to be an excellent CFO at Freddie Mac. He knew the business inside and out, he was brilliant, he was well-liked, and he had achieved many successes in his various roles at Freddie Macover a 16-year career. However, he was thrust into a very visible leadership role at a very troubled company with no prior experience in a CXO role, no executive support, and no reference group of other CFOs to mentor him through the challenges. He was not set up to be successful, and though his tragic death was the result of many complex factors, the isolation and seeming impossibility of this challenge surely contributed.
The stories we hear about breaking down social barriers are all about winning - in Remember the Titans, T.C. Williams won the State Championship; in The Express, Ernie Davis wins the Heisman Trophy; we know of Georgia Frontiere because her St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV. I wish Randolph nothing but success - I hope she gets the support she needs to be successful and proves me wrong.
Posted by: mrvl13 | March 16, 2010 9:06 PM
Report Offensive Comment
The comments to this entry are closed.