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2 female varsity head football coaches make history in Chicago

Two women CPS football coaches make history
Two women CPS football coaches make history 02:47

CHICAGO (CBS) – History was made in high school football Thursday night on Chicago's Far South Side.

Two Black women, who are each head coaches of boys' varsity teams, went head-to-head in a Chicago Public League matchup at Gately Stadium on Thursday -- in what was believed to be the first-ever varsity high school football game featuring two female head coaches.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, the fans filled with fans at Gately Stadium, at 10201 S. Cottage Grove Ave. in the Pullman community, as the two Chicago Public Schools varsity high school football teams took the field.

The players at Christian Fenger Academy High School in Roseland, and Jean Baptiste Point DuSable High School in Bronzeville, were on the field for a win – but their coaches were making history.

Jouscelyn Mayfield is the head coach for Fenger.

"It was meant to be her. It was meant to be me," she said.

Konesha Rhea calls the shots for DuSable.

"It's bigger than us," Rhea said, "and we know it's bigger than us."

Female Chicago high school football coaches make history 03:15

Rhea became the first Black woman to serve as a head coach for a CPS boys football team last year. Earlier, she told CBS 2's Jackie Kostek her heart has always been on the gridiron, going back to memories of south suburban Harvey when she was growing up. 

Rhea: "Being 5 years old, playing in the corner lot of 157th and Lexington, whenever I went to go visit my aunt Vicky," she said.

Kostek: "What'd you love about the game then?"

Rhea: "I got to hit people and didn't get in trouble." 

But Rhea hit her first block in her own father, who didn't want her to play, but eventually let her manage a team. Rhea wouldn't get her first chance to play organized tackle football until her early 30s, when she made the Chicago Force, playing as a backup defensive tackle.

"I only played for two years," she said. "That very next year, the last regular season game before our championship game, I tore my ACL."

Her playing career ended abruptly, but Rhea would stay in the game, coaching youth football and eventually becoming the defensive coordinator at DuSable in 2019. Last year, Rhea made history as the first Black woman to serve as head coach of a Chicago Public League boys football team.

"I'm still like, 'Really?' I'm honored," she said. "I take great pride in it. Our theme for this year is pride. So I'm full of pride and I'm going to give my all to make sure I'm a great representation for the first, so that others know that they can do it too."

Mayfield is a friend of Rhea's and this season became the head coach at Fenger. They went head-to-head with their friendly rivalry on Thursday evening, and CBS 2's Terry caught up with them both.

Two women coaching varsity head coaches for boys' teams, and deciding the plays on the field, is historic. And the coaches are well-respected.

Terry: "Was it difficult to earn the respect of these men?"

Rhea: "It wasn't. It wasn't. All it took was me for to give them a couple of plays and show them a three-point stance."

Mayfield: "I earned that. I'm a mama before anything, and I tell them that all the time. You can't outthink…"

Terry: "The wits of a mom."

Mayfield: "Yes."

As CPS recognized the huge accomplishment, it was a tweet from the Illinois High School Association that left the two coaches – who are known for yelling at players – speechless.

The Illinois High School Association reported that after consulting with the National Federation of State High School Associations and other high school organizations around the country, they believed the contest Thursday night was the first ever varsity high school game featuring two female head coaches.

Both Rhea and Mayfield were thrilled.

"Man, Coach K – we're on top of the world, coach!" Mayfield told Rhea. "Man, this is amazing!"

Terry: "The first in the country - how does that feel?"

Rhea: "Overpowering."

Terry: "These are tears of what?"

Rhea: "Joy. I didn't know. I'm honored to be the first."

But the two coaches are determined to make sure they won't be the last.

"I just want everybody to know, like, we're making history and we're breaking barriers," Mayfield said.

"If they can see that we can do it, they can do it too," Rhea said. "They can feel empowered to come on and join the ranks of high school football coaches."

And most games are about winning. But both coaches won Thursday night.

"Our city is winning," Rhea said, "because it's showing we can have a sports team - it can be led by a woman."

As for the score, Fenger beat DuSable 50-0.

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