Posted by: madelinebelangercnu | January 16, 2019

Callie Brownson – Breaking Barriers

For my blog post I chose to discuss the first full-time female football coach of a Division I school, Callie Brownson. Callie hails from my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia and graduated from the same high school as me. She currently works for Dartmouth as an offensive quality coach and she earned her position after completing an internship with the team during preseason. I posted some links below; one is from the Dartmouth Athletics homepage that has a great writeup on Callie, and the other is a video that provides a little more background on Callie’s life and how she got to where she is today.

If you read the writeup on Callie Brownson and you watched the video, you might notice that Callie doesn’t demonstrate some typical feminine traits; she wears polos and long athletic shorts, keeps her hair short, and her voice sounds an octave lower than what’s expected of a woman. Callie addresses her femininity in the video and shares that some people say that she should “look the part” as the first female football coach. Earlier last week, we discussed femininity and masculinity, and I started to wonder what effect this might have on Callie’s position and her leadership. I feel as though she might have been received better as a member of the Dartmouth football program because she, in a sense, looks like them. Additionally, the players are more likely to follow Callie because of her masculine traits. Callie appreciates that head coach Buddy Teevens brought her into the program because she “knew her stuff,” but I can’t help but ask whether masculinity played a part. This is especially important because of just how masculine football is. It is a sport dominated almost entirely by men, whether it be coaches, refs (although congrats to Sarah Thomas for being the first woman to officiate a playoff football game!), or even sportscasters. Maybe this is a good first gradual step into bringing women into football, and I hope that Callie is the first of many female coaches in the future.

Despite Callie’s masculine traits, I’m sure her journey through the labyrinth wasn’t always easy. Being denied the opportunity to play football at her high school must have been heartbreaking, and I’m sure it was just one of many obstacles she faced. I wonder about her journey through the labyrinth; was it easier because of her masculinity? Has she made the labyrinth an easier journey for women after her that choose a similar career path? I loved the video we watched about Shonda Rhimes; the women before her enabled Shonda to pass through the glass ceiling without a scratch. I like to think that Callie is one of those women that is paving a smoother path for women after her, and that a female football coach becomes a much less rare occurrence.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog post and learning more about this individual. As someone who loves sports, this was a super interesting person to learn about. However, in regard to this comment, I want to answer your question, was it easier [to navigate through the labrynth] because of her masculinity? From what we discussed in class this past week and from other conversations that I have had, I think in a sense it made it easier. However, I don’t think it made it easier to navigate the labyrinth. I think it made it easier to just serve in the role she was in. I think she faced a lot of pushback for not looking the part, which does not make it easier to move through the labyrinth. I really appreciate her staying true to herself through all of the comments that have been made, as that is a very admirable trait about her leadership style and qualities.

  2. I am a huge sports gal, been playing and watching sports all my life, so this blog was super entertaining to me. I loved that a woman was coaching a guys football team however, I do think it was easier for her to get this job and for the players to respect her because she was more masculine. I realize that she still faces many struggles and harsh comments, so I am not degrading that at all, but I would like to see a very girly girl try to do what she was doing and see how it played out. I think it is awesome how much confidence she has and how much pride she takes in her job. She didn’t care what others were saying about her, such as you should grow your hair out, she went on doing her job that she is passionate about.

  3. Maddy, I loved your article and really enjoyed your comparison to the Shonda Rhimes video. I do think Callie is one of the women who are paving the way for all women in sports leadership – and doing an excellent job with it. With that being said, I do agree that it was definitely easier for Callie because of her more masculine traits. Being a woman that seems to possess more masculine qualities makes it easier for her to be a football coach, that being a more masculine job, especially since football has an all-male team. On the tv show “Glee”, there is a woman football coach named “Beast”. She is rejected by the team at first because she is a female, but shares a lot of the masculine traits that Callie has in the article. She typically wears polos or athletic clothes, has short hair, and has a deep voice. Her strict and rough demeanor in which she treats her team helps her to be respected by the male players. The show depicts that if she were more of a “girly-girl”, there would be no way she could coach this football team, she would be more like the cheerleading coach at the school. However, going along with Jordan’s idea of a woman who is more girly taking on this role, it would be interested to see if she was respected or looked down upon. I wonder if her being a woman coach will inspire more females to try out for football, or more “masculine” sports?

  4. Leadership in the context of sports has always been a topic that has interested me and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I had never heard of Callie until reading this post and viewing the links you posted. I have a lot of respect for the Dartmouth coach in hiring Callie based on her ability and skill as a coach, even though she is a female. Even the loud cheer and standing ovation from the players in the video was nice to see because it is clear that they respect Callie and believe she is good at what she does. Do you her masculine qualities probably play a role in obtaining the position, yes, but I don’t think that necessarily makes it easier for her. She still faces a lot of criticism about not looking the part of a female; however, I think it means more that she sticks to her image and and pushes through any negative comments about her look because it shows her strong leadership abilities. Although the path to leadership for women is a difficult one, Callie is showing other women how to break through the barriers and stay true to themselves. To answer your question, has she made the labyrinth an easier journey for women after her that choose a similar career path, I think that she is setting a example for women with more masculine traits to keeping going despite any negative comments about their look. It should not matter about masculine or feminine qualities rather the ability and skill of their leadership. The path to leadership for women with masculine characteristics may be a little smoother due to Callie but there is still a little ways to go for all women, masculine features or not.

  5. This post was really great to read especially because I have never heard of her before. I would also be interested to know if her masculinity played a role in her success in becoming a coach. I think people do normally gravitate toward people who are similar so I personally believe that her more “masculine” traits played a role in her success. I am sure it must have been very difficult to get where she did but I think it is awesome that she has also helped future women coaches gain more respect and clear a path for them to reach the same success as she did and beyond.

  6. I really liked this post because before reading it, I had no idea who Callie Brownson was. It’s really great to read something like this because several decades ago or maybe even several years ago, this would be unheard of.
    While I do think it was easier for her to navigate through the labyrinth because of her masculinity, I think our society should try to move towards accepting feminine women into this field as well. It does make sense that they readily accepted her because of her masculine traits, but I think a woman who is more on the feminine side could also do just as competent a job. I understand that it is a rather new process for women to even enter into this professional realm, but I think it would be so cool if women who aren’t like Callie could have a chance to be a coach too. Even someone who is a “girly girl” and acts very feminine could have just as much knowledge about coaching and competence to coach a team well. Thanks for sharing, this is such a great story!

  7. I thought that this was a really interesting post, especially because I had never heard of her before! I also agree with your point that she is definitely one of the early women paving a path for other women in this field, since there are no other female coaches that I know of, both in college football and the NFL. Judging by the article published by Dartmouth, she worked extremely hard to get to where she is today by honing her skills both on and off the field. I also feel that she was definitely at a disadvantage when getting this position – she was described as having “skill set, preparedness, and attention to detail and passion,” but I feel as though men who may not have all of these traits alongside experience would still be as likely to get the same job. But she is definitely paving the way for others entering this field and hopefully inspiring other women by showing that a male-dominated field is still accessible!

  8. This story is interesting to me in light of your questions about how an aspect of masculinity can affect a woman’s success. I think that one reason it’s so difficult to navigate leadership and success as a woman is because in some contexts, more masculine traits are desirable, whereas in other contexts, a woman may be more rewarded if she presents herself more femininely. This also makes it complicated as a means of paving a path for other women, because what are we saying about femaleness when we choose to take on more masculine qualities so that we can succeed? Are we devaluing traditionally feminine qualities? It seems that this could possibly be perpetuating the idea that these qualities are less desirable. However, since it does depend on the context, is it maybe okay to say that masculine qualities are more desirable in certain contexts? It seems to me that this can also be true.

  9. I found your post and attached links fascinating and as many others have said, I was unfamiliar with this story and of Callie Brownson prior to reading this. I was so interested in learning more of her story and what people had to say about it that I started looking up more articles. An article from CNBC quotes Brownson saying “a coach [at the high school] said, ‘I heard you play and that is cool, but have you ever thought of coaching football?’ and honestly, I didn’t. I just never saw a woman doing that, and it’s not because I don’t think we could, but it just never crossed my mind.” I feel like a lot of women leaders we learn about have their heart set on doing something and will do what it takes for them as a women to get there but it was really interested for me hearing that Callie Brownson completely discounted the possibility of her coaching because she was a woman.

    I don’t necessarily think it is right but I do agree with you in that I think her outward appearance and “masculine” traits aided in her success in this field. It makes me wonder in the players would have respected her the same is she looked or acted more “feminine”. None the less, her story and what she has done is remarkable.

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