Female football coaches have been getting lots of attention this fall, primarily because they're women coaching an all male sport. While Natalie Randolph and Amy Arnold deserve plenty of credit for taking on a challenge and defying stereotypes in the process, another female coach of a male sport is on the verge of leading her team to a state championship, and her exploits have flown completely under the radar.
According to an article by Burlington (Vt.) Free Press contributor Shawn Corrow, BFA-Fairfax (Vt.) coach Katie Mack could become the first woman to coach a boys team to a state title if the Bullets pull out a win in the Division III boys soccer final on Tuesday. It's currently unknown if other women have coached boys soccer teams to state titles elsewhere, but it seems a safe assumption that Mack would be among a very small cadre to have achieved the feat, at worst.
"I don't really think of it," Mack told the Free Press of being a woman coaching a boys team. "It wasn't my goal to be a woman coaching a boys team. It just kind of worked out that way."
It's worked out splendidly for BFA-Fairfax. Mack has been teaching social studies at the school for the past five years, and she took over the reins of the boys soccer team three years ago, when the boys position opened up while the girls soccer coaching slot was still filled.
The decision to put Mack in charge was made by BFA-Fairfax athletic director Mike Brown, who admitted he harbored concerns about hiring Mack the boys soccer job, primarily because of doubts that would surely linger in the surrounding community. Eventually, he gave her the job because Mack -- who is a girls club soccer coach for Far Post Soccer Club and a former Division III player at Drew University -- was the most qualified applicant for the job.
Brown's faith has been rewarded by a dramatically improved program, which has vaulted from eight wins in the first season under Mack to six in 2009 and 13 -- including three in the current state playoffs -- in 2010.
"It's been an amazing season," Mack told the Free Press. "I'm so proud of these boys. They've been the ones who have made this work. I'm just a soccer coach who happens to be a woman. They've accepted me as that."
In fact, Mack's tenure has been so successful that her athletic director may have even paid her the greatest compliment possible.
"To be honest, until you brought it up I hadn't even thought about it," Brown told Corrow. "Maybe that's the ultimate compliment we can pay Katie. I forget sometimes how it looks from the outside; that it is really rare to have a woman coaching a boys team. It's even rarer for them to be competing for a state title.
"But regardless of how rare - or unprecedented - it is, she's just our coach. And she's a really good one. I'm glad we made the right decision three years ago."