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CALVIN COOLIDGE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION, INC.
'She's the Real Deal'
On a sultry afternoon in Washington, D.C., the 2010 Calvin Coolidge High School football team is energetically scrimmaging on the field. Their coach scans the boys' moves from a spot high in the bleachers while meeting with a prospective lineman and his father. Suddenly, the coach leans over and bellows a command, and the players stop to regroup.
Scenes like this are taking place across the country as school football teams start their seasons. The difference at Coolidge High is that the Colts are led by one of the few women in the U.S. ever to coach a boys' varsity football team: Natalie Randolph. In March, the selection of Randolph--a science teacher and former college track star and pro women's football player--as head coach kicked off a frenzy of attention and merited a press conference with D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty, who declared March 12 "Natalie Randolph Day."
Public response ranged from jubilant ("It's about time!") to reactionary ("Football is a man's sport"). Randolph's burly assistant coach, Bob Headen, reports, "A guy who played for me and then went on to the NFL called and said, 'Man, they got a girl there as a coach!' He didn't like it." A renowned D.C. high school coach himself, Headen had previously worked with Randolph and left retirement just to come and assist her at Coolidge.
At first blush, Randolph, 30, seems an unlikely choice to coach a boys' football team at an inner-city school. She is petite, soft-spoken, and more self--effacing than self-promoting. But beneath her calm demeanor is a will of steel--and a loud mouth. "My students will tell you I yell and scream all day," Randolph says with a smile.
"She has a small voice, but she's very powerful," attests quarterback Femi Bamiro, a 16-year-old junior. "When she means something, she means it, and she won't stop until you get to where you need to be." After Fellonte Misher, 16, a junior and wide receiver, heard Randolph had been hired, he planned to leave Coolidge and follow the departing coach to another school. His mom told him to at least go to Coach Randolph's first practice. "I didn't think it was going to be as intense as it was," Misher says. "She had us running in the halls, doing ladder drills. Man, I was sweating!" He stayed--although a handful of boys did transfer.
'Natalie has always been very confident, even though she's shy," says the coach's mother, Marilys Randolph, now a physical-therapy professor at Florida International University in Miami. "I think that helps her say, 'I can do it.'" An only child, Randolph grew up in D.C., surrounded by athletes--her father was also a physical therapist. She attended the elite Sidwell Friends School (Chelsea Clinton was a grade ahead of her, and the Obama girls are currently enrolled there), where she played volleyball and basketball and ran track. Randolph wanted to try football--the junior-varsity coach was open to her playing with the guys--but her dad urged her to stick with track. She went on to the University of Virginia, partly on a track scholarship, and left with a bachelor's degree in environmental science and a master's in education.
Football was always on Randolph's mind. "At college I'd go in my room and watch games all weekend," she says. Her father was a therapist for the D.C. Divas, part of the 51-team Independent Women's Football League, and she decided to try out. Randolph was their wide receiver from 2003 to 2008. Since playing for the Divas was an unpaid job, she worked as a D.C. public-works outreach coordinator for two years and then became a science teacher in a District high school in 2005.
Although she had been an assistant football coach at another school, Randolph did not seek out the head-coach job at Coolidge; the principal had to ask her to apply. Initially reluctant, she did--and left her competitors, including two former NFL players and a retired Army brigadier general, in the dust. "All the other candidates were selling themselves, and Natalie was the only one who talked about the students and what she'd do for them," recalls Derrick Mickels, a member of the hiring committee and a nonprofit education consultant who helps run Coolidge. "We were like, hands-down, she's the choice. She's the real deal."
After she was appointed last spring, Randolph made immediate and dramatic changes. She instituted rigorous college-level practices, and off the field she set boundaries for the boys. When some of them called her the M-word--Mom--she gave them a warning and extra push-ups. Before entering the locker room, she learned to holler the 60-second warning "Put your pants on!" Most notably, she demanded that her players show up for study hall after school four days a week--no excuses--to do their homework or SAT prep. Since many of the boys were skipping study hall because they were hungry, she brought them healthy snacks.
To encourage her students, Randolph dangles rewards. She has taken the team's academic achievers to D.C. Divas games, to training camps, even to the NFL draft in New York City. "I want them to understand what the word 'work' means and how to function in life," Randolph says. "I do think I care more about academics than most coaches. Some kids play with Ds, but when they leave school, they don't go anywhere because they're unprepared. It's not fair. A kid busts his butt on the field, and you don't take care of him after that?" The team respects her emphasis on studying. Says middle linebacker and center Brandon Hernandez, a 15-year-old sophomore, "She tells us that to play football, you have to have mental fitness before size and strength."
While Randolph's kick through the glass ceiling has inspired women far and wide, she is most touched by its impact on the girls at Coolidge. "Some of them have told me that they want to play football. I tell them, 'Not yet.' A lot of them wrote me cards after the pick that said, 'You're a role model.' That made me want to cry."
Randolph's next challenge, of course, is winning from naysayers that seven-letter word Aretha Franklin sang about--respect. Many will use the Colts' first game, to be played this week, as a test to see if a woman truly belongs in this most testosterone-drenched of team sports. (Last year, the Colts had a 6-4 record.)
Even in the face of tremendous pressure, Randolph maintains her calm. "I'm a little anxious, but at the end of the day, we know what we're doing and we're going to be okay."
Perhaps her composure is due to the fact that she has already succeeded in her efforts to advise, lead, and mold her students. As quarterback Femi Bamiro says, "She's grooming us to be great young men in society."
COOLIDGE'S 4x200 relay last weekend ran the fastest time in the United States
Coolidge ran the fastest time in the nation last weekend for the 4x200 on a flat track & we are ranked #1 overall in the USA
Benefit Fundraiser for The Coolidge Track Team Seniors
Coach Julius Fletcher will be hosting a Benefit Fundraiser for The Coolidge Track Team Seniors during Black History Month. The guest Ron Freeman has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Ron Freeman waived his appearance fee for this event. He participated in the Olympic Black protest in the "68" Olympics along with John Carlos & Tommy Smith (raised black fist with blk leather gloves during the national anthem). The photo attached is a picture of a Coolidge alumni (Ricky Jennings "72", Football -Track)) who was on the Oakland Raiders winning Super Bowl team. He also has a Youth Center in Oakland, Calif. He offered to help the students with financial assistance for college.
There was a full slate of events contested at the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association indoor track and field championships on Monday, and marathon wasn’t one of them. But that’s exactly what they got at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex. Several coaches said they arrived at the Landover facility around 10:30 that morning and, although the meet was scheduled to end at 7 p.m., didn’t leave until closer to 9.
In a way, the meet continued until Thursday when scoring was finally finalized and team champions were crowned. A deep Dunbar girls’ team breezed to its fourth straight title by 170 points, followed by H.D. Woodson and Coolidge. Coolidge won the boys’ championship over H.D. Woodson and Dunbar.
Concept was envisioned in 1986 by The Calvin Coolidge Alumni Association, Inc. founders, Barrington D. Scott, Frank Jones III and James A. Scott, Jr. as a way to build alumni participation, inspire team comrade while building lasting friendships, to increase attendance at DC public school football games, and to honor the achievements and contributions of former coaches Samuel P. Taylor, Sr. (Calvin Coolidge HS) and James L. Tillerson (Theodore Roosevelt HS). In the year of 1987, with the support and agreement of the Calvin Coolidge HS, Theodore Roosevelt HS principals, football head coaches, and the Calvin Coolidge Alumni Association, Inc. established the first “Clash of the Titians Football Classic. The first “Clash of the Titians Football Classic Trophy” was donated by a former Calvin Coolidge Alumni “Fletcher Tensley” who also was inducted as a coach into the DCPS Track & Field Hall of Fame. Each year the “Clash of the Titians Trophy” is presented to the winner of the game, who maintains it at their schools campus until the next game is played a year later. If one school wins “The Classic” three consecutive years it will retire that trophy and a new one will be brought to replace it, and the process will continue. Both, the Calvin Coolidge Alumni Association, Inc. and Theodore Roosevelt Alumni Association pick a panel of judges to select an MVP (Most Valuable Player) for the offense and defense. Calvin Coolidge HS was the first school to retire a trophy and now a new one has been brought to continue the legacy. Thank you for your continued support of “The Clash of the Titians Classic”.