Stereotypes at play in neglect of girls' coaching achievements

DeLaSalle Girls’ Basketball Coach Faith Johnson-Patterson will receive the Special Merit Award at the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul on Feb. 6 at the 2013 Minnesota National Girls and Women in Sports Day ceremony.

The honor “came out of the blue,” says Johnson-Patterson. “What an honor — my main purpose, my work has not been in vain.”
Faith Johnson-Patterson, right, with her husband and DeLaSalle Assistant Girls’ Basketball Coach John Patterson and their son and student manager John Patterson, Jr. Photo by Charles Hallman

This is the second consecutive month this year that she has been honored: Johnson-Patterson also reached the 400-win milestone on January 11. “Four hundred wins in 17½ years — it’s almost 25 wins a season,” she says of that achievement. “I knew it was coming up, but when they announced it…that’s absolutely unbelievable.

“I never dreamt that I would have this much success. All I really wanted to do is help kids get scholarships and develop skills, help them develop confidence [and] be better people. You have to learn how to win to be successful,” she points out.

Her record is 404-95, and counting. But this significant milestone went virtually unnoticed, getting instead the Rodney Dangerfield “no respect” treatment from the mainstream yakkety-yaks and snobbish scribes.

I’d suspect that if Johnson-Patterson was another skin color, or perhaps a different gender, she would have been the subject of half-hour specials. Or, if she had got most if not all of her wins not at a school located in the Black community, but in a Twin Cities suburban school with ballyhooed facilities and supposedly better kids, the coach would’ve have made all the local talk shows.

“You’re absolutely correct,” confirms Johnson-Patterson of this suspected neglect. “I never received a single phone call or anything. What I see happening is that people want to bury my accomplishments. They don’t want to acknowledge the fact that I’ve been extremely successful.

“The stereotypes always have been there,” says Johnson-Patterson of her 14 years at Minneapolis North before being hired at her present school several years ago. “I don’t know if it is a race issue, but I definitely know it’s a gender issue. It’s probably a combination.”

Sadly, this is another clear-cut example of the cultural conditioning we all know so well: White people are considered superior and Blacks inferior, and as a result we are underestimated, underutilized and marginized.

“There’s a lot of stereotypes that come into play,” notes the DeLaSalle coach, who adds that if she had been a White male, TV cameras would have converged en masse on the downtown Minneapolis school. “I don’t think people really want to believe that I could be considered one of the best [high school] coaches in the state…

“I had all this talent, [so the assumption is] ‘She should win.’ No one ever looks at it that you can have talent, but if you don’t put it all together… Other teams have had a lot of talent, but they can’t put it together. They haven’t won so many state championships or been at the state tournament 13 times, including nine straight times in a row.”

Nor has anyone else been the first Minnesota girls’ basketball coach to reach the finals with five eighth-graders, four of them as starters in 2009. Faith Johnson-Patterson has.

“What people don’t understand is that every year traditionally my teams have gotten better. We started out rough this year and continually [worked to] improve,” she says. “But has anybody noticed that? Sometimes I used to make the statement, ‘Do I do my job so well that I make it look easy?’

“I’m here for these kids,” reaffirms Johnson-Patterson, who has seen many of her players go on to college and then on to productive lives. “The program has produced over $2 million in scholarships, and I’m extremely proud that they took advantage of the opportunity…young women giving back to other women.

“I’m a coach, and I have been in for the right reasons all along. I’ve worked hard. I feel that God has called me to reach out and give back to the lives of young people. I take it extremely seriously — it’s always been about them and not about me.”

At top: Faith Johnson-Patterson, right, with her husband and DeLaSalle Assistant Girls’ Basketball Coach John Patterson and their son and student manager John Patterson, Jr. (Photo by Charles Hallman)

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Charles Hallman's picture
Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman writes regularly for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and blogs at Another View.