Woman football coach shows the way

I can imagine many people might be asking why Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C. named Natalie Randolph, a woman, as their head football coach. But when I read about her, I didn’t wonder why a woman was the head coach, but how the rest of us, of either gender, can be clear on what really matters.

Randolph was the focus of a lengthy article in yesterday’s New York Times: A Coach Used to Tests Insists Players Pass Theirs. In speaking of her players, Randolph told the Times, “I hope that they know that I really don’t care about winning football games. But I do care about school.”

When kids learned of her appointment, one said, “I was like ‘Ms. Randolph? The science teacher here? No way.’” But even though she may not look like the prototypical football coach, she has the kids’ attention.

The Times reported, “After school, Randolph’s players must attend an hour-long study hall, where they do homework and receive tutoring or help with SAT preparation. She also requires each player to have his teachers fill out a weekly behavior and progress report.”

The coach also doles out consequences when her players don’t live up to the standards – from making them run more drills after practice to being barred from games. She means what she says.

In terms of coaching, I believe deeply in what Randolph is doing. She sees clearly what her role is: to help cultivate growing boys into young men. She knows that the most important skills these kids can learn are not how to throw a football or run a play, but to be prepared for life.

But beyond coaching, Randolph has a message for the rest of us who are not on a ball field, but in communities. She has adopted a clear orientation about what matters and the values that animate it. She is willing to step forward and be intentional about making her orientation and values real throughout her daily work and environment.

Each of us is engaged in something that calls upon us to have equal clarity about our orientation – about the direction in which we turn ourselves – and about the values that must be exercised to make that orientation come alive – to put it into play.

So, today, I do not celebrate Randolph because she is a woman in a traditional man’s role; rather, I celebrate her because she is a person who has made a clear declaration of purpose and is taking action with a true sense of conviction.

On the thing that matters most to you, what is your orientation? In what direction are you turned? What choices are involved in this turn? And what values must you exercise to make that orientation real?