Women belong in football: Brooke Jackson is carving out a new legacy on the sidelines

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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There is a stigma in some football circles that the game is only for the most macho and masculine of men. The idea of women in football is sacrilegious to them.

But a different voice, a woman’s voice can be just what a young athlete needs to hear. If you see Callaway Middle’s Brooke Jackson pacing the sidelines on a Thursday evening, it is business as usual for the second-year defensive line coach.

“It’s not about titles, it is about who is going to show up for these kids day in and day out,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter who it is that teaches them as long as they are being taught right.

“No, I have never played football, but I have been around the game my entire life. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tougher because I didn’t play, but I still know what the players are supposed to do.”

The importance of having different voices and perspectives for players to hear is not lost on Jackson.

“There are some men out there that coach softball, and there are some men out there that coach girl’s volleyball,” Jackson said. “Why can’t a woman coach football?”

Jackson, long familiar to the Callaway faithful as the high school’s athletic trainer, knew that she would be looking to take a step back from the rigors of the long hours of her athletic training work, but she did not expect what came next.

She transitioned to the middle school with no idea that she would end up coaching football as well as her teaching responsibilities. 

“I switched my job, my roles, my location, pretty much flipped my whole life script,” Jackson said. “The kids just adapt and they don’t care what I look like. They treat me like the other four coaches and listen to what they are telling you to do.

“If they know you are going to show up every day for them, they will show up every day for you.”

Her first year was a learning process for her and the Cavaliers. Now, she has added more responsibilities as a coach and feels more comfortable in her new role.

“With one year under my belt, I get to work on different stuff,” Jackson said. “Last year, I was kind of just here, this year I could work on this, this and this. 

Next year, coach (Kerry) Woodard might say I have different responsibilities.”

Jackson added kickoff duties to her resume this season and makes sure the team is set up properly, a new responsibility she did not have last season.

Woodard has been in Jackson’s corner since day one.

“He loves it, and it was him that asked me to coach, I didn’t ask him,” Jackson said about her head coach. “Coach Woodard lets me do what I want to do. He never holds me back.”

Jackson also has days when she is in charge of conditioning as her roles and responsibilities continue to expand. 

To some of the outsiders or the parents, it might be strange to see Jackson on the sidelines coaching up the players. But for the young men in the pads, Jackson is just another coach.

“Once I got out there and I saw the kids having fun, and they started respecting me I really started to love it,” Jackson said. “I have always had pride in the Cavaliers, but it just made me even more proud to be at Callaway.”

Jackson knows she gets side eyes and glares because of the simple fact that she is a woman and has never played football before. Jackson does not care, she commands the respect of her players, her peers and her superiors and that is what matters to her.

At first, Jackson was just happy to help out, but something clicked for her during her first season as a coach, and she fell in love with the job.

“It is so much fun,” Jackson said. “Coming from athletic training where you get to watch everything from kind of a distance to now, being a part of the wins and the losses is a change. I feel like I have a bigger part on game days.”

Jackson takes her responsibilities as coach very seriously while also being a warm and compassionate figure for the players. As just middle schoolers, Jackson wants to make sure that the players do not fall out of love with the sport.

“Even if we lose, we want to lose with pride and humility,” Jackson said. “I’m not going to scream out them and make them hate the game of football if they do something as simple as jump offsides.

“I want them to learn and feel encouraged.”

Jackson is no stranger to the Callaway sideline, so next time you see her with a group of young boys looking up and listening to her, she is not there to tape their ankles, she is there as their coach.