Listed near the bottom of her resume, along with her accomplishments and work experience, Gabrielle Brown discloses the following: “1M+ mistakes I’ve made and will continue to make as I learn and grow,” noted the second-year Macalester men’s and women’s assistant track coach.
Her positive aura is unmistakable, how comfortable she is to admit that she’s far from perfect on her resume. “I don’t know everything,” said Brown in her on-campus office. “I don’t want to know everything. I don’t have all the answers.”
Born in Minneapolis in 1996 and later a St. Paul Johnson grad, Brown attended and ran track at Hamline. She returned to the MIAC in 2020 as a coach and lead recruiting coordinator at Macalester.
“I went to Johnson and Hamline, and it feels good to be here at Macalester,” she pointed out. “I feel like it’s almost full circle for me.” As one of two Black women coaches (Tashina Steggall is associate HC), “being a Black woman in athletics, helping advise our Black and Brown students here, there’s always something being in a predominately White institution.”
“I will say that definitely as a former student-athlete living in Minnesota, born and raised in Minnesota, I definitely am used to navigating White spaces as a Black woman,” continued Brown. “I think for me that translated pretty smoothly into my professional career and having to advocate as much for students of color that I’m coaching now.
“Originally I wanted to be a teacher,” she admitted. “I knew I was going to be a teacher from a very young age. I have educators in my family—my grandmother, my mom. It wasn’t until my final year of college where I was doing my practicum study where I realized I was not enjoying my time.” After student teaching at a St. Paul public school and a city charter school, “I truly got to see the difference…what teaching would be like.”
Before she graduated from Hamline in 2019 with a communications and education degree, Brown set school track records in the 60-meter hurdles (indoors), 100-meter hurdles (outdoors), and the 4×100 meter relay. She was a three-time All-American. Brown also interned in the track office in her junior year, “doing the operational logistical stuff behind the scenes.”
During that stint, her track coach “started putting in my ear, ‘Gabby, you can do this… We need more women. We need more women of color in this field.’ She was definitely speaking life to me, and I received it all.
“So then my senior year of college, I started taking certifications [classes] to get to learn proper terminology, language, coaching cues, those sorts of things,” said Brown, who also became a student coach. She later became a graduate assistant coach at the University of Jamestown (2019) as she worked on her masters in business leadership. She also coached five seasons in AAU club track for Track Minnesota Elite.
Brown designs training programs for sprints, jumps and hurdles. “I don’t know what’s going to happen day to day,” she noted. “I will say it’s probably one of my biggest attractions [to coaching[—every day is different.
“I’m intentional with making sure that I’m continuing learning and that I’m learning from the athletes, other coaches and whatnot,” Brown said. “I am super intentional to try to lead with humility… If I mess up, I’m correcting it. I’m acknowledging that I messed it up.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.