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Herminia Hall is simply ‘Coach Hall’ at Fullerton High

Herminia Hall poses for a photo during a Fullerton High practice.
Herminia Hall, an assistant football coach at Fullerton High, joined the varsity football while attending Narbonne High.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

In high school, Herminia Hall was told football was a boys’ sport.

One day, while she was a student at Harbor City Narbonne High, an announcement came that the football team needed more players. Hall, who played basketball and ran track, was denied a spot. But the same announcement came the next day.

Hall was annoyed. The track team was co-ed. Why not football? She stayed persistent, eventually bringing her mother in for a meeting with the principal, and wound up as an offensive lineman on the varsity team.

“There’s always going to be a no,” Hall said. “If you really want something, you keep finding an outlet. Someone’s going to say yes.”

About 30 years later, Richard Salazar, the head coach of Fullerton High, was the latest to say yes, bringing Hall on in October as the varsity team’s tight ends coach. The 46-year-old Hall is finding a home there, thanks not only to her knowledge of the game but also a mentality that’s helped her assert herself in the familiar testosterone-fueled environment of football.

“When she wants to be demonstrative, she gets what she needs done,” Salazar said. . “She’s never overpowering … she talks to the kids like kids want to be spoken to, but she demands at the same time.”

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Initially, Hall said, players would hold themselves back from swearing in front of her because of her gender. That changed soon enough; she told them women on her professional team — the Los Angeles Fames of the Women’s Football League Assn. — had fouler mouths than any of them.

“Sometimes they say, ‘Yes sir – oh, no, yes ma’am.’ I’m like, you know what, it doesn’t offend me,” Hall said. “You don’t have to correct yourself in front of me. You don’t have to not be yourself or change who you are as a player because there’s a female standing next to you.”

Every day, Hall leaves practice at 6:30 p.m. to do CrossFit, then heads to Hardcore Fitness for high-intensity training. In the meantime, she’s taking courses at Fullerton College and Cypress College in hopes of earning a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine.

That background in weightlifting and training has helped her connect with players, who are impressed with her regimen and knowledge. Even before she started as a coach, she and junior guard Franklin Honrado met at a local Gold’s Gym after Hall saw he was wearing a Fullerton shirt and asked if he played football. The two ran into each other frequently at the gym after that, with Hall offering tips and general conversation.

Herminia Hall talks to Fullerton High football players during a recent practice.
Assistant coach Herminia Hall talks to Fullerton High football players during a recent practice.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

“She’s very easy to connect to,” Honrado said. “She’s supportive, and she’s always there to talk to us when we need help.”

Growing up in the projects in Harbor City, Hall avoided gangs by playing sports, getting a job at a McDonald’s at 14 so she could pay for basketball shoes and other athletic needs her parents couldn’t afford. With that background, she’s been able to connect on a deeper level with Fullerton High players — many of whom are disadvantaged, she said.

“They inspire me, I inspire them,” Hall said. “Being their counselor, being somewhat their mom on the field, it’s pretty neat.”

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Hearing about Hall’s background as a woman in football is inspiring, guard Roman Lopez said.

“Having sisters of my own, knowing anyone can break through those barriers — it’s amazing,” Lopez said.

In their first game of the season, Fullerton High beat Garden Grove Pacifica 31-8 on March 12, which happened to be Hall’s birthday. At lunch before the game, the team sang “Happy Birthday” to her, and Hall said she choked up after players told her in warmups they’d win because it was her birthday.

“We wanted to win for her, and make sure she felt special that day,” Honrado said.

As Fullerton High tries to make noise in the Freeway League this season, Hall has found a place within the program as a mentor on and off the field.

“I am one of them — they’re not seeing that I’m ‘Ms. Hall’ or whatever,” Hall said. “It’s Coach Hall.”


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