Coolidge football coach Natalie Randolph, who at one time was believed to be the country’s only female high school varsity football coach, has resigned.
Randolph informed Coolidge Athletic Director Jonathan Blackmon of her decision to step down earlier this week and made it official Tuesday. The Colts finished 1-10 this season and missed the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.
“[Coaching] takes up a lot of time. I’m focused on family, spending more time with family and focused on handling a lot of my own personal business,” Randolph said Thursday. “It takes a lot of time to do it right. And it’s not fair for the kids if I need to pull back. I wouldn’t be able to give them 100 percent.
“I’m an all-or-nothing type of gal.”
Randolph, 33, was introduced as the school’s coach on March 12, 2010, causing a national stir and prompting then-mayor Adrian Fenty to label the date as “Natalie Randolph Day.”
But in her four years at the school, Randolph transcended that spotlight, said Cato June, the current Anacostia coach and former NFL linebacker. Randolph, a District native and 1998 graduate of Sidwell Friends, entered the position with a strong football background, having served as an assistant at H.D. Woodson for two seasons in 2006 and 2007 and playing five seasons as a wide receiver for the DC Divas of the Independent Women’s Professional League from 2004 to ’08. But she also established high academic standards for her team and developed a reputation as an indefatigable coach who would help her players off the field.
“It’s a tough game, and it’s a tough duty. As a high school coach, you’re more than just a coach, so you sacrifice a lot of your own time, your own personal life, trying to better the lives of young men,” June said. “She never really wanted to be seen as [the only female coach in the country]. She just wanted to be another coach that’s trying to help kids, that’s trying to teach football and who’s trying to win. And that’s honorable.”
Randolph went 16-26 over her tenure at the school, with her most successful season coming in 2011 when she led the Colts to a 8-3 record and a Turkey Bowl appearance.
She called the resignation an “emotional decision because these are the best years of my life.” Randolph said she woke up Tuesday morning not nervous about officially stepping down but concerned for her players. She gathered the team and made her announcement later that day, just four days after the team lost its final game of the season against Ballou, and much of her message centered around the fact she will continue to have a presence in the building. Randolph will still teach six classes of environmental science at the Northwest school, she said.
“Some people don’t like change, so that’s a concern,” Randolph said. “I told them, like I told anybody else, that they have access to me for the rest of their lives. I’m not going anywhere, I’m just not going to coach. But I’m there for them with whatever they need.”
The news of Randolph’s resignation has left the Coolidge community somber this week, according to JR Bolden, whose son Jamar Bolden is a sophomore quarterback on the team. Bolden said Randolph had a penchant for working on little sleep, often waking up early in the morning to give her players rides. She took her team to a number of football camps across the region this summer, exposing the players to high-caliber competition and college campuses. Replacing Randolph’s energy will be the challenging part of the transition “because football is never over for her,” Bolden said.
“My son cried like a baby when he got [home]. . . . The kids love her, man. Those kids broke down,” Bolden said of the response to Randolph’s Tuesday announcement. “Her place is going to be hard to be taken for the kids that are already there.”
Randolph said Thursday she has no immediate plan to return to football in the future, simply adding, “I’m a teacher.” Blackmon said Randolph will be welcome to aid in the transition to a new coach. For now, he said, Randolph needs a break from the game.
“It was historic,” Blackmon said. “She really helped put the Coolidge name back on the map. She did a great job with the kids. They will really miss her.”