The last time Natalie Randolph took a job working in the District’s high school athletics scene, her arrival was heralded as a step forward for the feminist movement. Randolph drew national headlines when she took over as Coolidge’s football coach in 2010 and, at the time, became the only female in the country believed to be the head coach of a high school football team.
It was considerably more low key this week when she returned to the city’s high school sports landscape as the D.C. State Athletic Association’s new Title IX coordinator and senior women’s administrator. After spending the past two years working as a science teacher at Alice Deal Middle School, Randolph found a behind-the-scenes role she’s more comfortable with.
“I’ve never liked the spotlight,” Randolph said Tuesday. “I was looking to do more for athletes as a whole . . . and it seemed like a great opportunity to grow women’s sports.”
Randolph recently helped the DCSAA put on its first football scouting combine in June and led some college workshops for the organization in recent months. This full-time position, established in 2014, will entrust her with “making sure schools are in line with Title IX and that gender equity is taken seriously.”
Randolph’s first task will be to finish off a five-year Title IX strategic plan, necessitated by the Athletic Equity Act, which was passed last year by the D.C. City Council. DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said Randolph also will oversee the city’s volleyball and tennis championships and called her “such a great asset on our team given her experiences. We’re excited to have someone of her caliber on our team.”
Three years ago, the National Women’s Law Center filed a formal Title IX complaint with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights against D.C. Public Schools . The D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association has taken steps to address lagging girls’ sports participation numbers by adding women’s bowling and girls’ flag football to its offerings in recent years.
But gender equity remains an issue, and the city’s charter schools face similar problems. Randolph emphasized she is there to “help schools get there.” While she has mixed emotions about her experience as a head football coach in the city, it shaped her perspective entering an administrative role.
“I look back at it as a really, super difficult experience but yet a really meaningful one and one I got a lot out of,” Randolph said. “It was hard. It was crazy. I worked 24 hours a day. But I found out what I really love to do.”
Randolph said the initial media blitz that her hiring at Coolidge generated was overwhelming. She pursued the position to help students earn college scholarships, not to become a national role model. Over time, once most of the reporters and television cameras left, that became easier.
Randolph finished with a 16-26 record and made one Turkey Bowl appearance in four years, but her off-the-field contributions were lauded by players and parents after she resigned as head coach after the 2013 season.
She wants her second act in female sports to have a similar impact— outside the national consciousness this time around.
“I was able to make sure students use sports as a stepping stone rather than letting sports use them,” Randolph said. “Obviously, for girls and women, that was a bonus. I didn’t set out to do that, but it worked out that way, and it was a really great thing to do.”