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Girl Power: Huntington's success hinges on female coach - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Girl Power: Huntington's success hinges on female coach

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SHREVEPORT, La -

Joan Catanese is your typical teacher, who loves her students and even won Huntington's Teacher of the Year award in 2013.  But it's what she does outside of the classroom that catches people's attention.  

Catanese is the head football coach at Huntington Middle.  And ever since she took over the reigns, both her and her team have been an instant success.

"When I first started playing football, my dad was like you're going to do what.  You're going to play football? And they say sometimes when your playing ends, you go to the coaching route," Catanese said.

And can Joan Catanese coach.  Huntington middle school's first year head football coach has led her crop of 7th and 8th graders to an undefeated regular season, a rarity in middle school ball.  But Catanese knows a thing or two about being a rarity.  She's the only female on the sidelines.

"I mean, if it's groundbreaking, that's great. I just look at it like this, I may be a girl but I'm coaching football," Catanese explains.

"It's no different than working with any other coach. I'm sure it's a thorn in your side to get beat by a girl coach, but she's played football before. Look, she's a coach, that's all there is to it, female or not, she's a coach so that's all that matters on the football field," defensive coordinator Jack G. Burt added.

Football is in Catanese's blood, growing up in a family of coaches and players.  She said it was a no-brainer to play for the women's professional football team, the Shreveport Aftershock. Catanese began her coaching career in softball and basketball, but eventually followed her passion for pigskin 4 years ago as a middle school assistant.

"I love the in's and out's of it.  I love the x's and o's.  I love that it's a physical chess match. I love it, and so once I was bitten with that bug, it was game on," Catanese describes.

"I've been trying my best to surprise her, keep her happy and all that," 8th grader Larry Moton said.

"She coaches a little bit better than a lot of men. She has us doing more stuff than what we did with a man coach," 8th grader Cory Swift added.

"She gets stuff out of these kids that I've never seen other coaches do.  These kids love her. These kids love her," Burt elaborated.

Everyone from Coach Burt to her players say being a woman head football coach hasn't change anything about the game.  And although she gets called out for frowning on the sidelines, she's nothing but smiles when it comes to talking about her team, who refers to her as 'mom.'

"I have overwhelming pride in these boys. I'm just so proud of them. There's not really another word to say," Catanese said.

Huntington middle school is now 7-0 after winning a 22-20 overtime battle Tuesday for the League 2 Championship.  They play for the City Championship November 20th against also undefeated Ridgewood Middle, 6pm at Lee Hedges.

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