Coolidge Coach Natalie Randolph makes her presence felt on the football field

Natalie Randolph, one of only a handful of women to ever to be named coach for a high school football team, brings her Coolidge High School players onto the field for DCPS's first legal day to practice on Friday in D.C.
By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 6, 2010; 8:46 PM

As she lugged an equipment bag onto the Coolidge football field, and saw 29 helmet-clad players waiting to start the season, Natalie Randolph sounded Friday afternoon like most coaches nervously preparing for their first practice.

"There's just so much to do," she said. "I'm not even sure what to do next."

Once she blew the first whistle, though, Randolph appeared in her element, running players through drills and officially beginning the season as just one of a handful of women ever to lead a high school football program.

The Colts had grown accustomed to Randolph's leadership over the summer, adhering to her detailed conditioning program five days a week. That program was a major reason they were surprised by their lack of fatigue.

"We must not be human," senior Daniel West told his teammates during a water break, "because humans would get tired in this heat. We ain't tired."

The Colts expect a few more players to come out, as about a half-dozen had to watch practice from the sideline while awaiting medical clearance. They also have one less player than they expected after the surprise departure of senior Stephon Stevens, projected to be the Colts starting quarterback this season before he opted to transfer to Dunbar on Thursday (permissible according to D.C. Public School's out-of-boundary transfer rules).

Regardless, Randolph held practice with the players she has, and her attention to detail and preparation were among the talents that the school's coaching search committee said set Randolph apart. It was apparent throughout the three-hour workout, notably as she ran players through a footwork drill in which they tiptoed through a ladder on the ground.

"Don't mess up my ladder," she warned players as they ran through the exercise. "Keep my ladder straight."

Parker Covington, 76, lives three blocks away from the Brightwood school. His grandson, Antonio Pixley, played quarterback for the Colts six years ago. Covington leaned against the fence on the far side of the field and paid particularly close attention to Randolph.

"I definitely wanted to see what she was all about," Covington said. "I'm always coming to the games, but now, I'll be coming to the practices, too."

Since her hiring, Randolph has appeared on the CBS Early Show, Good Morning America and CNN. She has been besieged with dozens of interview requests, and has had an ESPN camera crew trailing her since April. Friday, however, the media scrutiny was light - The Post was one of three outlets covering Randolph's first practice.

It may have been a welcome respite for Randolph, who is not one to seek out the spotlight.

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