How To Coach Girls
The difference in how to coach girls and how to coach boys is very different. Our Director of Athletic Counseling, Ashley Wiles, has got you covered.
Becoming an effective, successful coach is an art and requires one to adapt many times throughout his or her career, depending upon the athletes which comprise the team. Winning coaches learn the nuances of their players – what motivates, what inspires, what drives each individual to succeed, to push past limits, and to strive towards continual improvement – in an effort to mesh those unique personalities to move forward as a unified team. No two athletes are exactly the same in the way they practice and the way they perform; effective coaches approach their athletes knowing this.
The body of research regarding the differences between coaching girls and boys undeniably illustrates the importance of knowing your audience. It isn’t rocket science to conclude that girls are emotional creatures and, despite being tough, driven, goal-oriented individuals, female athletes filter information emotionally first, intellectually second. They bring their emotions to practices and to games and it is important to allow time for adequate processing with their friends (i.e. teammates). Males are systematic and factual, whereas females seek to understand the reason and rationale behind why they are being asked to do/learn something.
A necessary aspect of coaching is to critique and correct; how you deliver the information often determines how the message is received. When communicating, girls are interested in how things are conveyed (i.e. body language and tone of voice) vs. the words being used. Females also internalize while males tend to globalize criticism to the entire team. Thus, when providing correction, it is important to speak individually to a female rather than call her out in front of the team. This strengthens the crucial level of trust that a female athlete desires with her coach and doesn’t cause undue personal embarrassment.
Relationships are critical to females. The relationship a coach has with his/her female players is important – females value that connection and want to know they are cared about, on and off the playing field. Girls have a more cooperative approach to teamwork, viewing success through the lens of the unit vs. the tendency of boys to value individual success and achievement. Additionally, females are quick to come to the defense of a teammate and will approach breakdowns in play as the fault of the team vs. the mistake of an individual. In general, girls are more selfless in their play – assists being of near-equal value to scoring. Thus, encouraging and building positive relationships among team members is essential when coaching girls, whereas boys are less likely to value that aspect and are more concerned with personal skill development and performance. A strained relationship between two female teammates can have a direct impact on the game and can quickly disintegrate team unity. Cliques can quickly form in response to perceived hurt feelings as one teammate sides with another. Furthermore, in a game situation if disagreements are left unresolved, the course of play can be negatively affected as teammates carry the grudge onto the field, selectively passing to “friends” or those perceived “on their side.”
Finally, there is the subject that everyone acknowledges yet many refuse to discuss – biological maturity and hormones – and how those are factors which directly affect the performance of female athletes and their interactions within the team. As girls mature their bodies go through a time of frustrating awkwardness which requires a degree of sensitivity that can be uncomfortable for some coaches. There will be times when female athletes cannot, no matter what they try and how much they desire, get their bodies to cooperate. Biology and hormonal influences just do not allow. As a female coach I have experienced many situations wherein the key was to offer silence, reassurance, a calming presence, time, and often a few Kleenex.
Undoubtedly, there are exceptions to these observations but the critical point remains – for a coach to attain success personally and as a team, he or she must invest the necessary time into understanding and developing each athlete on an individual level. Being a coach requires a great deal of patience, understanding, and willingness to learn about your players – those that dedicate the time to do so are the ones that truly shine and the ones that athletes treasure as they look back upon their athletic careers.