Coolidge Coach Natalie Randolph enters her second season on the sidelines with a lot less fanfare, and the players like it that way. Says senior tight end-linebacker Chuck Gaines: “This year we’re actually focused on the team and focusing on what we need to do.” (Jonathan Newton/THE WASHINGTON POST)

A recent afternoon practice was more than 50 minutes old when Coolidge Coach Natalie Randolph emerged from a tunnel connecting the school to the football field. She chatted with a prospective player’s parent, answered a few questions about the upcoming season and then joined the Colts on the field.

Heading into the second season of her tenure, this is exactly how Randolph — one of the few women to ever be a head varsity football coach in the country — wants it to be.

“I put systems in place that’ll take care of themselves,” said Randolph, whose team finished 4-7 overall and 3-1 in the DCIAA West in 2010. “Like now, practice can kinda run without me. I feel completely useless when I’m out here. They’ll be like, ‘That’s what a head coach is supposed to do, walk around and yell at people.’

“It took some getting used to because I was an assistant coach and always doing stuff. Now I do most of the stuff behind the scenes, meet with the coaches and tell them what to do and they come out here and do it. ”

This year, with fewer reporters and cameras expected to document the team’s every move, players see a more unified and disciplined squad, one that has taken to Randolph’s way of running things. The routines are second-nature. There are new rules; cursing, for instance, results in 10 push-ups. And that’s all because Randolph, players say, is stricter and more serious.

Once the Colts had a taste of the playoffs last November, they realized they weren’t just the center of national attention but indeed capable of winning.

“Last year we were so worried about the cameras and the publicity,” said senior tight end-linebacker Chuck Gaines. “This year we’re actually focused on the team and focusing on what we need to do. We’re more serious and disciplined.”

— James Wagner