Ex-librarian invades male bastion to coach college football kickers

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Carol White has traveled a road full of improbabilities to the Georgia Tech football program, where she just completed her third season as a kicking coach. Specializing in both placekicking and punting, White has carved a niche in a rough, virtually males-only sport. She is the only woman coaching varsity football at the collegiate level in the country. ``Kicking is not physical'' says White, whose job allows her to work individually and independently of other positions. As a result, she says her relationship with the players can be more ``personal.''

A transplanted Vermonter, White began her football career nearly 20 years ago at Monroe High School in Albany, Ga. Hired as the librarian, she was pressed into double duty - first keeping statistics, then scouting, and ultimately coaching - due to staff shortages.

Encouraged to specialize in kicking by the Monroe High coach, White studied with kicking expert ``Doc'' Story in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and at the training camp of the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons.

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Prepping with Story led to coaching duties at the Pat Dye Kicking Academy at Auburn University (Dye is Auburn's head coach) and last year she started a summer kicking camp for 8- to 10-year-olds at Georgia Tech.

Until this season, White was also working on a Ph.D. in organizational behavior, maintaining a 3.9 grade-point average. Since her two years of eligibility as a graduate assistant have run out, she has spent this semester concentrating on football.

From August through November, she occasionally puts in as much as 18 hours a day on her livelihood. Besides handling on-field duties, she is preparing a video on her kicking philosophy and techniques and is in demand with speaking engagements.

Despite the fact that it occupies the bulk of her time, White feels there is no financial security in football and is reluctant to pin her hopes and future on the sport. Each season she takes a wait-and-see attitude as coaches come and go and win-loss records are tallied.

Stressing that she was recruited for all of her coaching jobs, White steers clear of predicting which of her career experiences or degrees she'll be using most. She has an undergraduate degree in political science and a master's in information science and school supervision.

``I'm a teacher,'' says White, implying that the principles of teaching are similar regardless of what you teach. It's a potent combination, her ability to instruct and her knowledge of kicking. It seems unlikely that her involvement with football is in jeopardy, especially in the South, where according to White the attitude is ``Will it help us win? If it will help, let's do it.''

For women interested in following in her footsteps, White recommends ``patience to work your way up without showboating.'' She believes most job openings are in ``smaller situations,'' and calls recruiting an area where women can make a contribution.

One other woman with similar credentials at the high school level is Diane Dodge, who tutored record-breaking kicker Tim Foley of Georgia Southern College when he was at Ocala, Fla., High. ``She taught me balance, how to bring my leg through, and all the mechanics of kicking,'' Foley said after kicking a 63-yard field goal against James Madison, a Division I-AA record tied later in the same day by Arkansas State's Scott Roper.

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