The football graduate assistant continues to break down barriers
Mimi Bolden-Morris is a pioneer. A confident, capable and powerful trailblazer who pursues what she wants. Like anyone else.
Except she’s a woman on Michigan’s football coaching staff. Bolden-Morris is in her first year as an offensive graduate assistant with Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, the first graduate assistant at a Power Five school.
Bolden-Morris was raised with her brother, Mike, a senior defensive end for the 2022 Michigan football team, by two parents who valued discipline and respect. His father, Michael, a policeman, and his mother, Melanie, a high school principal, raised their children on these values.
“Discipline is huge in my house,” Bolden-Morris said. “The work ethic, the way we interact with people – respect, love and filter the rest – that’s what I grew up on and it stuck with me.”
This, combined with fierce faith, led her through uncharted waters. In addition to being on staff at UM, she is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy, in addition to a master’s degree in sports industry management which she earned while playing basketball at Georgetown University. Bolden-Morris spent her first three and a half years in college playing basketball at Boston College where she earned her bachelor’s degree in communications.
She spent her last semester at Georgetown and took advantage of the extra COVID year to complete her first master’s degree. Now in Ann Arbor, she’s ready for more challenges.
Bolden-Morris is used to competing with boys. Throughout her childhood, she juggled several sports – on women’s and mixed teams: baseball, softball, basketball and football.
“My dad made a rule that we had to participate in two or more sports a year, so there was very little sitting time at home,” she said. “I started playing baseball. I loved competing with the guys. I guess the little me loved the idea of proving the 8 year old boys wrong. I threw, I caught, played first and third. I was introduced to softball around age 8 and played baseball and softball until about age 11, then committed to playing travel softball until age 14 years approximately.
“At the end of the softball season, I played flag football in the fall, which has always been my favorite time of year. I was only allowed to play quarterback on deep balls because I was throwing too hard for the girls to catch, so I spent most of my flag football career at catcher.
Growing up in a sporty family developed his skills and competitive spirit, but an innate athleticism and acumen made the difference in getting him to this point. She attributes the similarities between these sports to the ability to pick things up faster.
“Exposure to so many different sports has helped me, especially mentally,” she said. “The majority of sports I’ve played in, I was in a position that had a pretty high IQ — quarterback, wide receiver, having to do some readings on defense. I was a basketball point guard and shooter.
“I always had the ball in my hands to make decisions. I was a catcher in softball and baseball, and I was also throwing. I was always in the position of having to figure out what my opponent could do in order to be able to manipulate him in different ways.
When asked before the start of the football season if she was nervous about this new role and experience, Bolden-Morris replied, “No.” Her journey gradually built her confidence and composure, but her path to Ann Arbor wasn’t always easy.
As a freshman at Boston College, Bolden-Morris earned All-ACC Freshman honors and was a finalist for Rookie of the Year. She was a jumping leader. But then a new coach came to town, and with it a new system and a new approach. In a full 180, Bolden-Morris barely saw the floor.
“I barely played, it was only at the end of the season,” she recalls. “It was the same team, I just didn’t play. My trainer was pretty old school in his approach and wanted us all to fit into this super slim track star figure. So we had weigh-ins, all these race tests, and if you didn’t pass them, you couldn’t train until you passed them.
“I was mentally overwhelmed, probably at the lowest point in my life,” she admits. “Dealing with that, I feel a bit invincible now that I don’t have any.”
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The ups and downs continued through her junior and senior years in Boston — she transferred to Georgetown during the 2020-21 season — but she searched for the “why” and the lessons learned from the experience.
“I had to assess how I was going to get through this situation that I had never been in and maintain my character throughout,” she recalls. “Because I got lost. I lost my character and the respect that I came to college with, and I had to get it back. I had to rely on my faith and surround myself with people who pointed me in the right direction. That’s what brought me here. I had to lose him to see how to get out of it.
Now in Ann Arbor, Bolden-Morris is working towards his goal of coaching in what could easily be an extremely difficult situation.
“If I had one concern it would be the way I’m treated, but they’re absolutely amazing,” Bolden-Morris said of her Michigan family. “They treat me like a little sister. I’m super grateful to be in a position like this. I don’t know many programs that would have accepted me.
“If Coach Harbaugh doesn’t think I’m doing something right, he tells me and holds me accountable. I like to be treated like anyone else.
Bolden-Morris looks to her colleagues, some of whom have been with the company longer than she’s been alive, and sees them as “father figures, grandfather figures, big brother figures.” . She is always looking to learn something.
“I know the least of almost everyone, but I keep the mentality of ‘all I can do is my best.’ All I can control is the effort I put in and the attitude I bring.
— This is an abridged version of a story posted online. See the full story at mgoblue.com.