For the football Colonels
Annette Meinheit is the department head of Missouri Military Academy's English as a Second Language program and has a master's degree from the University of Central Missouri. However it is her other title that really stands out: Assistant Football Coach. If football is a man's game, don't tell her.
For the last three years, Meinheit has stayed busy outside of the classroom watching and analyzing film, both of the Colonels and their competition, coaching kickers and traveling with the team. Her current title is Tech Coach, responsible for technology, student managers and scout film analysis.
Although she doesn't get to spend much time on the field, Meinheit shoulders the weight of ensuring the Colonels are prepared for whatever an opposing team may throw at them. On a typical afternoon, Meinheit and a squad of student managers will sit down with film of whatever team the Colonels face that week, meticulously evaluating every action the team has taken over previous weeks.
"We take the film and break down the plays. Who is offense? Who is defense? Who is kicking? We figure out the down, the distance, the play time and result," Meinheit explains. "If we do all those things correctly when the team watches film they can see what the other guys are doing and how they would respond to it."
Like most women, Meinheit never had the opportunity to play the game. However she was far more than a casual fan.
"In my high school, girls weren't allowed to play football; that was a glass ceiling that hadn't been broken yet," Meinheit said. "But I grew up watching football with my dad and loved the game. As I got older I learned how to recognize what was going on: What kind of offense was being run, how the defense was lining up, what plays were being called."
Meinheit's love for the game paid off. During the summer of 2011, Meinheit's first year at MMA, she was working a summer camp for ESL students at the same time the Colonels held their summer football camp. When the two camps took a joint trip to Big Surf Waterpark in Osage Beach, she had a chance encounter with head football coach Marc Wilson.
"We were both standing in line for ice cream and I said to him, 'Hey, when are you going to let me coach football?'" Meinheit said. "He looked at me like I was crazy, but agreed to bring me on to keep stats."
Meinheit impressed with her knowledge of the game and in 2012 took over scouting for the Colonels, and began coaching the team's kickers. She faced challenges early, but quickly earned the respect of the team by demonstrating her knowledge of the game.
"Wherever you're coaching you have to command respect and I showed the guys that I do really know football," Meinheit said. "Maybe some coaches from other schools looked at me like I was crazy, but I've never gotten negative feedback. I might be overlooked, but so far blatant sexism has been a non-issue."
There are only two women working as head football coaches for high schools in the country. Meinheit says someday she would love to be among them, but for now she is happy with her current position.
"Being able to talk football with the guys has opened up other opportunities for me," Meinheit said. "It's made them comfortable with me in a way they might not have been and allowed me to get to know my students better."
Despite the continued male-dominance of the game, Meinheit encourages any girls who are interested in pursuing careers in football to do so.
"You just have to keep loving football," Meinheit said. "Learn as much as you can because that glass ceiling can be broken and it will be broken."