She's a Warrior
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Oh boy, was Jerrard Hunter in trouble. The drill called for him to run a stop-and-go pattern, only the H.D. Woodson High School wide receiver didn't do much of the latter. The pass from quarterback Gabriel Prophet sailed past the 6-foot-2 sophomore, right to the spot to where Hunter should have run, and his coach was seething.
Hunter tried to return to the huddle inconspicuously, but the Warriors' 5-foot-5, 125-pound wide receivers coach wouldn't let him get away. Natalie Randolph grabbed Hunter's right arm, and spun him around to face her.
"What are you doing?" she screamed. "You can't do that, and just stop running."
Hunter turned his head skyward.
"Look at me!" she yelled. "You're running up there blind. You have to run your route and see the ball. Can you do that for me next time?"
Not too many women hear that from boys, much less football players. Randolph, 26, was hired as the Warriors' wide receivers coach before this season, making her what is believed to be the only woman on a varsity football coaching staff in the Washington area. While women have coached boys' high school teams in other sports, football has remained a boys-only club.
"This is football. This is different," said Wanda Oates, who was named Ballou High's football coach in 1985, only to have the hiring overruled by the deputy schools superintendent. Oates, who five years earlier was named the District's first female athletic director, said the move was prompted by the District's other football coaches. "Football is a macho sport. It's the macho of all macho sports -- seek out and destroy. If a woman seeks out and destroys a man, then, oh, my God."
Randolph has no compunction about seeking out players who deserve her attention.
"I see a seven-foot-tall man when she gets mad," Hunter said. "She doesn't have any trouble getting respect."
One of the reasons she gets respect is because she knows the game and has had the opportunity to play it. Not only does she teach environmental sciences at Woodson, she also just completed her third season as a wide receiver for the D.C. Divas of the National Women's Football Association. The Divas went 10-0 to claim the 31-team league's 2006 championship in July.
After Warriors Coach Greg Fuller found out about that just before the start of practice in August, he invited Randolph onto his staff. She had joined the Woodson faculty last October, just before the end of the football season.