Female Coaching Network Interview - Toni Fuller
To be honest; I was going to save this interview for later on in the year. However, in light of my Facebook and Twitter feeds; being inundated with reports of sexual abuse/harassment involving athletes, and the ongoing debate about what being a feminist really is – here is my submission.
My friend (lets be honest; we all have internet friends that we have never met in person); Toni Fuller defines feminist. She is a successful career woman, as well as an advocate for all athletes. She is a female athlete in a male dominated sport and is an example of being mindful, compassionate and is always growing. Toni is a member of the Austin Yellow Jackets Women’s Football ( IWFL – The Women’s Football League). With a long, rich history in the game, including an IWFL championship ring in 2006 with the Atlanta Xplosion, Toni is inspired to continue to play because of the life lessons the sport teaches her. Her life as a student athlete through high school and into college (earning Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees) at Vanderbilt University. This lead her to a career as an at-risk counselor for high school students and a mentor/tutor for student-athletes at the The University of Texas at Austin. She hopes that she can make a difference directing those students to take ownership of their futures and direct them toward excellence in their choice field of study. While at Vanderbilt, Toni herself was a student athlete, participating in Track and Field as well as intramural flag football as RB. This was the spark that ignited Toni’s illustrious twelve-year tackle football career thus far. She has played for both Austin teams over the last 6 years, most recently with the Yellow Jackets, filling the roster in the roles of S and DB on defense and RB, or if needed- QB, on offense. I “met” Toni on social media via 2 amazing female coaches; Dr Jen Welter and Lo Locust. Toni and I quickly started sharing ideas, questions and stories. Through these exchanges, I quickly came to realize that this lady is a force. I felt that she would have a story that would resonate with coaches and athletes alike.
I asked Toni to answer my questions as a female athlete who has had various coaches, and an advocate for female coaches. Her answers were candid and hold a message of resiliency and paying life forward that we all need to embrace. I had to read them three times; every time I learned something new about myself. The first time I openly cried, the second I became angry and the third I was filled with a gratitude that there is this wonderful person who can move forward and enrich the lives of others.
In our coaching careers, we often unknowingly have athletes come in and out of our lives who have experienced trauma. It is our duty to give these athletes a safe place to grow and to heal via sport. Here is Toni’s story.