Ability, heart and teamwork
Q: Natalie Randolph has just been hired as the varsity football coach at Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C., which makes her one of the few female head coaches in the country. What will be the obstacles to her success and how should she try to overcome them? Can you imagine a day when a woman would be chosen to coach an NFL team? Or are some glass ceilings unbreakable?
Ms. Randolph will teach her players important lessons about dedication, responsibility, teamwork, strategy, and football, but none will be as important as the lessons in dignity, grace, class, and strength that she will demonstrate in her response to the bigotry and childishness of her critics.
She will show her team that just as it was once unthinkable that a woman could be a pilot, a surgeon, a lawyer, a member of the cabinet, or an Oscar-winner for best director, it will some day be so routine that it will no longer merit a headline.
Just as a man can coach a women's team, a woman can coach a men's team. All that matters is an understanding of the game and the ability to inspire. And nothing is more inspiring than a person who has proven through sheer merit that previous preconceptions about what skills go with what chromosomes are just another line of defense to be broken through.
I was lucky enough to have some great advice when I was a young lawyer from my wonderful boss.
She had only been at her first job, a law firm, for a couple of months when a partner came into her office and told her another lawyer was tied up and she would have to go to court right away to respond to a motion from the other side. She was familiar with the case but had never appeared in court and she was very nervous. She walked in and the opposing counsel, assuming she was a secretary, asked her to get him a cup of coffee.
"Did you tell him you were a lawyer and he should get his own coffee?" I asked, hoping for a withering put-down.
"Nope," she told me. "I just said, 'Cream or sugar?' Then I got him the coffee, came back in the courtroom, and sat down at the counsel's table. He went so pale I was sure he was going to collapse. And when the judge came in, he was still too flustered to say anything. So we won the motion. That's what I was there to do. And if I taught that guy a lesson, that was just a side benefit."
Anyone who can play for the Divas can handle a few Neanderthals who think that a woman can't coach football. And anyone lucky enough to be coached by Ms. Randolph will never doubt that ability, heart, and teamwork are all that matter.
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