Natalie Randolph isn't alone as a female H.S. football coach
The reason you see journalists hedge on saying someone is the only one of something is because the moment you do that, it’s guaranteed you’ll get someone telling you you’re wrong.
So after the Washington Post (and I) noted that Natalie Randolph, just hired as football coach at DC’s Coolidge High, was believed to be the nation’s only female high school football coach, it suddenly popped up that, hey, she’s not the only one!
The example brought up was Debbie Vance, the head football coach at Lehman High (named after a former governor who was the son of a founder of the now-infamous Lehman Brothers) in The Bronx for the last two seasons. Her first year, the team went 1-8. In her second season, 2009, the team improved to 4-6.
It is slightly more common to have women coaching boys’ basketball times. But a 2008 analysis by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport found that only 2 percent of boys’ teams in that state — mostly swimming and tennis — had female coaches. I suspect the numbers aren’t any higher anywhere else in the country. The bigger issue, perhaps, is a decline in female head coaches in general at the high school level. The Tucker Center said only 17 percent of high school teams in Minnesota were coached by women, and only 38 percent of girls’ teams had a female head coach. Women’s representation is declining, the Tucker Center analysis showed.
As I mentioned in my previous post on Natalie Randolph, a lot of women I know opt out of coaching at the youth level because they feel like they don’t have time, given their many responsibilities in work, life and child-raising. At least in my experience at the youngest of youth levels, I haven’t seen the level of outright gender bias that Tucker Center director Nicole LaVoi sees (in addition to her noting what I said in the previous sentence about many women not wanting to add more one responsibility).
But then again, she’s conducting research, and I’m not. And I do agree that women, no matter who they’re coaching at what level, face questions of competence that men would never hear. From a conversation LaVoi had with Minnesota Public Radio:
“If a guy shows up for the first day of practice, he’s automatically assumed to be competent because he’s a male. But when a woman comes, that’s the first thing we think of,” said Lavoi. “That’s another one of the gender stereotypes about leadership. We automatically assume men are more competent than women.”
Lavoi says that uphill struggle to acceptance keeps some women away from the sidelines.
“A lot of them are sitting around going, ‘I didn’t think you wanted me. No one ever asked me,'” said Lavoi. “That’s a bright spot to me because I know there are a lot of women out there who are very qualified, who would make great coaches, but we have to figure out a way to get them to the dance.”
For more on the dynamic of women coaching boys at the high school level, here is a Nov. 5, 2009, piece from Central Florida News 13 on Tracy Stephens, the offensive line coach at East Ridge High School in Lake County. She has worked there for three seasons, hired by her husband, Jeff, the head coach, after he ran short of coaches to help in the spring. Just by being there, Tracy Stephens teaches an important lesson to the boys: that a woman can do things as well as a man, which is a message you wouldn’t think would need to be taught anymore, but does.