Jada Frazier talks to her Dougherty Middle School Eagles during practice. Frazier has the unique job of being a woman coaching a boys basketball team, which can be trying at times, but Frazier loves her job, and her players look up to and respect their coach.
ALBANY— It wasn’t a drill. It wasn’t a routine part of practice, and it wasn’t even something designed to hone the players’ basketball skills.
No, this was one-on-one hoops, ultimate one-on-one: Coach vs. players.
Jada Frazier just thought it might help, might ease the process and the tension, and help her make her point.
After all, she had to do something.
There’s nothing easy about being a woman who coaches a boys basketball team, but Frazier, who took over as the head coach of the Dougherty Middle School boys basketball team last year, has not only made the transition, she has excelled as a coach. Her team started the season 4-0 before losing two close games (a one-point loss and a two-point loss) just before the Christmas break.
Frazier thinks her kids have a shot at winning the city title this year.
But before she could win anything, she had to win over her players. That’s why she took them on, one at a time in a one-on-one showdown. She took over the team knowing there would be obstacles, but she felt she would tackle them one by one, so one day at practice she just decided to do just that — take on her players, one-on-on.
“I get on the court with them and I think it helps,” she said. “One day early on when I first started coaching them, I just went one-on-one with everyone on the team, one after another. I think that helped me to win their respect. I took them all on. I just went down the line, and said, ‘Who’s next?’ I think I won their respect that day.’’
Her players admire and respect their coach, and at times they feel she doesn’t get the fair end of the calls on the court because she’s a woman.
“She can play,” said Charles Porter, a 6-foot-2 eighth-grader and one of the top players on the team. “She’s our coach and we all respect her. To be honest, she’s the best coach I’ve ever had.’’
Porter said the problem isn’t with the players on Dougherty’s team, but with everyone else.
“To me, I think other people try to push her around. I think the referees and the coaches on the other teams try to take advantage of her because she’s a woman,’’ Porter said. “We had a game against Merry Acres (last week), and the referees didn’t have to treat her like that. It’s not right the way they treat her.”
Frazier knew it would be difficult, but she loves her job — the good, the bad and ugly of it. She couldn’t be happier with her team or the way she landed back in Albany in a job she never thought she would have.
“I love what I’m doing,’’ Frazier said. “I never thought about coaching, but I love these boys, and I love coaching this team. My boys are kind of hard-headed at times, but I love teaching them. I have kind of taken on a motherly role.
“Boys that age are just so silly,’’ she said with a laugh. “I have to remind myself they are in middle school. I share a bond with them. I don’t think they look at me as a female coach. I had to win their respect. I had to show them. I had to get out on the court and show them I knew what I was doing.’’
She landed at Dougherty Middle via New Orleans and Atlanta.
Frazier, who grew up in the Good Life City and was a star basketball player at Westover High School and at the University of New Orleans, was in Atlanta with a degree in business trying to find a career in the big city when she was told about a job at Dougherty Middle School.
Her mother, Jackie Frazier, is the principal at Magnolia Middle School, and when the principal at Dougherty Middle called Frazier’s mom to ask if she knew any candidates for a teaching job, she told her Jada was still looking for work in Atlanta. Well, mothers always know best.
That’s how Frazier, who had already earned her teaching certificate to go along with her degree in business, ended up coming home. She was hired as a teacher, but a few months later some of the players on the boys basketball team started asking her if she was going to be their new coach.
“Mr. (Marcel) Loving, who is a teacher there, came up to me and told me he thought I would be a good coach for the boys team,” Frazier said. “I think he knew my history and felt I would do a good job. And then some of the kids on the team started asking me if I was going to be the next coach. I think he (Loving) had mentioned it to some of the kids about me being their coach. They were coming up to me asking about it before I got the job.”
Frazier’s history speaks for itself.
She was a star at Westover from 2002 through the 2005 season, and was a Herald Super 6er and leader for the Lady Patriots. Frazier, who was a 5-foot, 9-inch shooting guard, was talented enough to earn a Division I basketball scholarship to the University of New Orleans, where she averaged 12 points a game. She is still listed fourth on the school’s all-time list for 3-pointers in a career. Frazier made 124 treys at New Orleans, before taking a longer shot at being a woman’s coach on a boys team.
“She does a good job,’’ Dougherty High School boys basketball coach and athletic director Donald Poole said. “Look at her record. It’s not easy to win in Albany, and she’s got a winning record. It’s not unheard of for a woman to coach a boys team. It’s rare, but it’s not unheard of. You have to respect what she has done, just look at her record. My main concern to make sure we get those boys to come here and not somewhere else.”
It’s difficult to earn the respect in such a unique role and Frazier knows it’s a never-ending battle with some people.
“I knew it would be a challenge,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t have everyone’s respect in that position. Some people are not going to believe in what I’m doing. Everybody is not supportive of it. I know that. I haven’t had anyone vocalize that to me. I knew it would be one thing people would hold against me, but we do have (people and parents) who have been supportive of me being the coach.’’
She’s had a year to convince people.
“Of course, the first year she was here there was talk,’’ said Dougherty Middle School Athletic Director Kwanna Jones, who coaches the girls basketball team. “There was that stigma, and there is always going to be talk. But she has made her point. She has silenced all of that. She proved herself.
“I knew she was going to be a good coach. I was supportive of it from the beginning,’’ Jones added. “I went to Monroe and saw her play at Westover. I knew she had what it took. And I saw the vision and the drive she has for her team.’’
Frazier has seen the parents and fans come around.
“I’m hoping to grow,’’ she said. “A lot of people have come up to me and they say how proud of me they are, and tell me to keep it up. That means a lot. We’ve beaten all of the other four schools this year.’’
Dougherty has won three games by 20 points or more this year, and winning can change the way people think. It also can make opponents want to beat you even more.
“My high school coach (Westover coach Lewis Smith) called me the other day and he told me, ‘You know Jada, all those men coaches are talking to each other about you. You know, they are going to be telling each other strategies and sharing stuff. None of them wants to lose to a woman.’ ”
Frazier knows there will always be resentment from some, but she has seen people in the Dougherty community come over to her side.
“It (a woman coach) is being accepted. The school, the staff and even the other students here have learned to accept it, ‘’ Frazier said. “I get a lot of support from the parents. It shows it really doesn’t matter. Everyone has been more supportive.”
Jones admires the way Frazier has handled everything.
“I’m sure it was pretty tough, especially with the men she coaches against. They don’t want to be beaten by a woman,’’ Jones said. “But she handles it well. I think the hardest part is the way the referees treat her. It’s not equivalent to the way they treat a man.’’
Frazier has had her moments with officials who call her games.
“We go through so much with the referees,’’ she said. “Sometimes I think these male referees are intimidated by me. When I ask a question, the level of respect is not there. They will take the time to explain things to my opponent, but they don’t take the time to explain it to me. That is one thing that definitely gets under my skin a little bit. But we don’t let it rattle us.’’
Frazier has had one technical foul called on her.
“I got a tech last year,’’ she said. “I was asking what happened on a call, and he hit me with a tech. I didn’t raise my voice. he just teched me up.’’
She’s not leaving or backing down. Frazier believes she is where she is supposed to be, and so do her players, who are ready to stand up for their coach.
“People talk,’’ Porter said. “I know some of the things they are saying. I just ignore it. I know it’s not true. She’s really a great coach.
“I think it was hard at first (to accept a woman for my coach), ‘’ he added. “She’s a good player. She’s got skills She really didn’t have to prove anything to me (on the court). I already knew she was a good player. She’s a great coach. She cares about us. She just has so much for us, and she never quits on us. We couldn’t have a better coach.’’