SPORTS | October 31, 2021
Konesha Rhea, head boys varsity football coach at the historic DuSable Campus (home of Daniel Hale Williams Prep High School and Bronzeville Scholastic Institute), was a young child when Wildcats premiered in 1986. The movie depicts a young female navigating her way through the challenges of coaching a high school boys football team, mirroring her own career trajectory.
“Wildcats was one of my favorite movies growing up,” said Rhea, who fell in love with football at the age of 4 years old. “My father didn’t want me playing football in high school, so I went on to play women’s tackle football after I graduated and got into coaching.”
When DuSable decided to make a head coaching change this year, Coach Rhea was the obvious choice.
“The players came to me and said they’d like to have Coach Rhea lead this team this year,” noted Williams Principal Jullanar Naselli. “We were impressed with Konesha as far as her accountability and her special interest in the students to help them grow academically as well as build the character of these young men and women.”
Coach Rhea’s hire this season was a historical one for the Chicago Public League (CPL) and DuSable. She is the first black woman to ever serve as head coach of a boys football team in the CPL, and she knew the significance of this moment and questioned whether she was ready for the challenge.
“I prayed about it and got advice from my grandmother. She told me sometimes you are called to do something special. I realized that they [the DuSable administration] saw my potential and that I could make a positive impact,” admitted Rhea. “That’s when I knew I was ready to become a head coach.”
The first step was to create a program that was inclusive to all students who wanted to play football. Coach Rhea has carved together a roster of 25 student-athletes (including four female players) of varying skill levels, with most having to play three-way positions (offense, defense, and special teams).
“I believe Konesha is the right person to rebuild our football program. We understand it won’t be easy, but we’re excited about her vision for the future,” added Naselli, principal at Williams since 2015.
Coach Rhea has had tough sledding thus far this season as the team concludes a difficult schedule that finds them winless in 2021 – but there’s a great support network behind her led by the principal, athletic director, players, families, fans, and the entire DuSable community.
“I’m a realist and I tell the team that we’re in a fight to get better every day. It’s not about winning right now – it’s about giving it our best each practice and each game,” said Rhea. “If we do that, we’ll all succeed together.”