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Lisa Larson

Lisa Larson

Lisa Larson is the Founder and President of Larson & Partners, LLC. When she is not helping companies optimize the business results delivered from their IT projects, she can be found watching football.

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.

By Lisa Larson

 |  March 16, 2010; 6:14 AM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I have been listening to your show and following some of the more important issues that continue to plague our society
And one of the main topic of discussion is mentoring and how it particularly important that we have more positive role “MALE”models
To help with guiding these you men as they mature and progress through life. I had been a mentor in both high school and college to the local
teens in those areas. However as time progressed and I became older I started to see the bigger picture as to why there is a more dire need for mentoring in our society. One of the main reasons obviously is the lack of the male father figure in the household, but that is not the main contributing factor. It appears that as women have progressed up the socio-economic ladder the family structure has deteriorated on many levels
especially for those single parents trying to hold it down. But also within the confines of this advancement women have also taken on the roles
that were once predominately filled by their male counter parts. Though I do believe in a level playing field, I strongly disagree with a woman coaching high school football. The reason is that many of these athletes playing are coming from a single family home with only the mother and no father present. A football coach helps fill that void on and off the field during and after high school. The big contradiction in all of this is that here we speak about needing more positive male figures or role models to help guide these young men, but you have women in society constantly trying to fill a void where a positive male figure is needed. How is it possible for positive “Black” male role models to volunteer there time and want to help younger disadvantage males when women feel they can do a better job in a role that is better suited for a man. It is not just about coaching the game. It’s about coaching life outside the game from the perspective of someone who has been there and done it. After years of observing the reasons why we constantly have to have a need for these mentoring programs it always comes back to the same conclusion men have been trying to step up and be men, but many women are constantly trying to over step these men who are trying to make a difference.

Thank you for your time
Glen Morgan

Posted by: mrvl13 | March 16, 2010 9:06 PM
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