Historic game pits 2 Black women as head football coaches

When Fenger’s Jouscelyn Mayfield and DuSable’s Konesha Rhea have been first teaching on reverse sidelines, it was “a battle of voices.”

Mayfield was a coach for her son’s youth football workforce and Rhea was the opposing head coach.

“She’s acquired a really loud voice. I’ve acquired a really loud voice. Everybody says all they heard was her bark and my bark,” Rhea mentioned.

“This time round I’m wanting ahead to it. It’s going to be a battle of defenses as a result of we’re each defensive-minded. We simply must see how our offenses can execute.”

Mayfield and Rhea will discover one another on opposing sidelines as soon as once more Thursday at Gately Stadium.

The two by no means imagined that almost 10 years after their youth football matchup they’d be on reverse sidelines once more, however Thursday’s game shall be historic. According to the Illinois High School Association, Mayfield and Rhea would be the first two Black women to go head-to-head as head football coaches in historical past. Each is on the lookout for her first win of the season.

Mayfield, or Coach Knikkie as her gamers name her, was born and raised in Cabrini-Green. Although she had all the time been a fan, her deeper curiosity in football began when her eldest son performed for the Canaryville Lions. She wished to know what was happening as a result of every part appeared sophisticated.

“I simply wished to know, ‘What did that imply?’ so I might all the time ask his coach,” Mayfield mentioned. “He was like, ‘You’ve acquired a whole lot of data, it is best to come assist me coach.’ And I used to be like, you don’t need no woman teaching, you understand? Because it is virtually extraordinary.”

Through her job as a safety officer at Fenger, Mayfield was already well-known by college students, so she had no drawback successful over the boys on the workforce when she was named head coach in 2021. Because she wore her whistle across the constructing, she mentioned a few of the children had been asking if she would coach the workforce.

Rhea, or Coach Ok, has a special football background.

Growing up south of Chicago, Rhea by no means thought football was in her long-term future. She assisted Jen Welter, the primary lady to teach within the NFL. And she performed semi-pro football with the Chicago Force.

Rhea was with the Force for 2 seasons earlier than tearing her ACL on her thirty fifth birthday. After the harm, Rhea’s daughter pleaded along with her to not return to enjoying.

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Rhea discovered her means again to football by way of teaching. A former co-worker talked about to Rhea that her grandson performed for the Bridgeport Hurricanes they usually wanted coaches.

“From day one, I fell in love with instructing children the way to play football,” Rhea mentioned.

She remained with the Hurricanes till she had one other youngster in 2017. With a brand new child, there was no time to teach.

But Rhea’s good friend Derek Crowder, who was teaching at DuSable, advised: “Well, you are yelling defenses from the bleachers. Why do not you give it a shot at the highschool degree and simply come to the employees?”

She joined the DuSable employees as defensive coordinator in 2019 and was provided the head teaching place in 2021.

Despite the aggressive nature of Thursday’s matchup, Mayfield and Rhea are pals and think about themselves a part of a sorority.

“It was simply one other game. This is Coach Ok! That’s my sister!” Mayfield mentioned of her response when studying the game would have some significance. “The objective is to have a historic win for every program.

“But simply being the place we are actually? Both colleges, each of us win. We’re setting the tone for one thing that is better and greater for younger women which can be coming after us.”

Rhea mentioned their friendship and journeys ship a message to younger women.

“Coaching and sports activities is for everybody,” she mentioned. “A girl can coach a male-dominated sport identical to a person can coach women’s sports activities. It’s all about your ardour and willpower and you’re employed arduous at it.”

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