In her own league: Meet the first woman to coach football in Knox County Schools


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- On a normal evening at Austin-East Magnet high school football practice you can find the Roadrunners putting in work, running drills and working on the fundamentals. As you scan the field, you’ll see one coach on defense with blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail—teaching tackling.

From the morning to the afternoon, Alyson Pointer teaches science at Austin-East, in the evening she teaches football as the first female football coach in Knox County and Austin-East. While she paves the way for women high school football coaches in East Tennessee, she does not necessarily see it that way.

Pointer grew up around the sport, attending her brother’s football games, cheering from the sidelines in high school as a cheerleader and beating the drum during halftime performances in her high school Alma Mater’s band.

However, her fandom was not the reason she originally entertained the idea of coaching football at Austin-East—it first came about when Antonio Mays approached her as a then defensive line coach, recruiting staff to help out with the program.

“My first year we were apparently struggling to keep coaches and finding people to coach and he was just trying to find people,” recalled Pointer, “I had a rugby ball on my keys. And he was like, ‘you play rugby?’ and I was like, ‘yeah.’ he asked would you coach football and I was like,” yeah, why not!”

Three years later, the head coach came calling and she answered.

“Coach Pointer shows initiative,” said Mays. “Coach Pointer is a competitor, and I saw that competitive spirit in her three years ago.” Pointer coaches the defensive line, Mays’ pride and joy. While coaching that position comes with some pressure, Coach Pointer enjoys it and has learned a lot about the game. “I think he stuck me in a position where he could really help me out and have other people help me out,” said Pointer. “It gives me the chance to actually learn.”

Pointer plays rugby for a local team in Knoxville. While some aspects of the game translate over to football, for the most part she is continuing to get an advanced lesson in football. “There’s a similar foundation but everything else is really different,” said Pointer, “…but it’s great to be out here I really enjoy it.”

While senior wide receiver Keon Smith and his teammate Tayon Wright have never been coached by a woman before they both do not perceive her differently than any other coach on the field. Smith says she adds a lot of “fire” on the field, holding people accountable for their mistakes and building them back up with tough love.

“I don’t really see her necessarily as a female,” said Wright a senior middle linebacker. “I see her as a coach, as a role model, someone I can get behind and can trust as a leader.”

“I don’t really see her necessarily as a female. I see her as a coach, as a role model, someone I can get behind and can trust as a leader.”

Tayon wight, austin-east senior middle linebacker

While Wright is not one of her students, he says he always ends up in her classroom and after knowing hers and Mays’ personalities, he believes she is a great fit for this team regardless of her gender.

“If she was a man, she says she’s a woman, she’s gay, straight, doesn’t matter. She comes out here like anybody else, like any other coach. like any other player; ready to work,” said Wright.

Raised by strong women, Mays believes whoever is most fit and qualified for a job, on and off of the field, should get it regardless of gender or sex.

“I never grew up looking at it this is man’s job or this is a woman’s job,” said Mays. “It doesn’t matter with me, the best person needs to do it and right now she’s [Pointer] the best I got.”

Since coaching this summer, Pointer says she has had one girl interested in joining the team and hopes more feel comfortable pursuing football–to which Coach Mays said, “Come out.”

She not only continues to make impressions on the gridiron, but also in the building.

“Coach Pointer is a knowledgeable, intense, and dedicated addition to our coaching staff, and she is an asset to our football program. She’s also a great teacher for us in the building as well.”

Alvin Armstead, Austin-East Athletic Director

Pointer says she plans to continue to coach football for the Roadrunners but hopes to coach rugby in the future.

Coach Pointer hopes her position will encourage other females to pursue coaching football and feel comfortable broaching the subject to create an opportunity to get into the game.

“I believe man woman, nonbinary, you should get out here,” said Pointer. “If you have the passion to do it come out and try for it, that’s the point. We need people out here and we need people that care. And that’s what’s going to happen.”

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