Saturday, January 23, 2016

Coaching Adolescent Girls: Insider Insights

Note: Julie Rollins, former athletic director of JPII and women’s basketball coach and Mike McLaren, JPII’s Dean of Students and women’s soccer coach, were interviewed for this article. Both have extensive experience coaching girls. Coach Rollins has coached girls’ basketball in central Tennessee for over 30 years, compiling over 500 wins, whereas Mr. McLaren’s teams are strong every year. His 2005 team went undefeated and was named the #1 team in the country by USA Today. Each was asked: How is coaching girls different from coaching guys? Here’s a composite of what they said:

It's no surprise to those who have coached both men and women, but what works well for one doesn't necessarily work well for the other. Still, it's a mistake to think that girls don't want to be pushed hard to get better--they do! They must simply be pushed differently.

Men are by nature more individualistic, women more team oriented. Since relationships are more important for women, girls need to know that the coach likes, trusts and respects them. If they believe that, they will work hard for that coach. Boys need ultimatums and goals to drive them; they are more externally driven and care less about relationships and more about respect. Conversely, they must respect their coaches’ knowledge and skill and have some element of “fear” of their coach (in the same way a boy might “fear” his father), whereas girls must buy into the coaches’ philosophy and know that the coach cares for them.

Girls are more natural team players, who in their desire to include everyone may pass the ball too much rather than taking the open shot. Occasionally girls will have to be encouraged to be more “selfish” when they play. Boys, usually the opposite!

Team bonding is therefore very important for women. Drills which emphasis team success will generally be more successful than drills that highlight individual achievement. Setting up drills where one teammate wins and the other loses tends to motivate boys but de-motivate girls because it will emphasize hierarchy of skill and undercut team chemistry and bonding.

The standard “I speak, you listen” doesn’t work well with older girls, especially. They’ll need to discuss things. Girls are less likely to put aside tiffs with teammates that may have occurred during the school day or on weekends. Team huddles to work through differences are important for high school girls, often apart from the coach, led by the older girls. So while a successful female coach retains control, he or she will want to be more flexible in allowing feedback and processing.

Praising a boy in the locker-room for a stellar game is usually well received by that boy and the team. Praising a single girl for a stellar game may cause her teammates to resent her; furthermore, the girl who is praised may not like it because it puts her at odds with her teammates!

Boys tend to over-estimate their abilities, whereas women underestimate them. Men are apt to blame failure on others (coach, team-mate, referee), whereas women quickly blame themselves. Coach Anson Dorrance, who has coached both the men’s and women’s’ soccer teams at the University of North Carolina, put it this way: If a coach is critical with the team in the locker room after a poor game, on a guy’s team, each boy is thinking “Yeah, what happened to you guys? I played great but you guys really let us down”, whereas on the girl’s team, each girl is likely blaming herself for the loss, including the girl on the bench who didn’t think she cheered loudly enough.

Annulments in the Catholic Church, Some Reflections

People misunderstand annulments, I believe, because they misunderstand the role of the Church in the sacrament of marriage. In Catholic theology, unlike the other sacraments in which God’s actions through the priest “make” the sacrament happen (Eucharist, Reconciliation, etc), in the sacrament of marriage, the priest is not the agent so much as the witness to what happens: the sacrament itself occurs between the husband, wife and God. The Church doesn’t “confer” marriage, then, but instead stands as a witness to the vows between husband and wife, offering with those present prayer and support for this couple in their vocation. Just as it does not “confer” on the front end, therefore, it does not have the authority to “de-confer” on the back end. The Church cannot take away what it never gave. 

Why then, is the Church involved with annulments? Precisely in its role as witness to the marriage. A marriage is only a marriage if during the time of vows, the bride and groom were truly able to “consent” to the covenant, free and unencumbered by external or internal impediments. Using a silly example to make the point, if the bride were pregnant and the bride’s father sat in the front pew during the marriage ceremony,  brooding, armed with a gun to make sure the groom “made it right,” it would be reasonable to question whether the groom was ‘freely consenting’ to the marriage. Those present at the ceremony, observing the gun, could certainly verify such doubt!

Similarly, in the annulment process, one or both of the parties asks the Church, as witness to the original vows, to go back and investigate if there was something that impaired their ability to freely consent to each other—even if it appeared the couple made those vows freely. No, it wouldn’t likely be as simple as someone with a gun held to his head! But what if the husband were  physically abused as a child? What if a slightly overweight young lady, full of  self-loathing, were desperate to “lock down” a relationship with any one who showed her kindness? What if, in the case of an unfaithful husband, there existed a prior pattern in his life of his inability to sustain a commitment to anything (jobs, relationships, schooling, etc)? Might there be reason to believe that in these cases, there wasn't completely free consent?

Of course. And if asked to investigate these marriages as part of the annulment process, the Church would likely find grounds to declare them “null.” But notice this important distinction! The Church isn’t creating something “new” in this declaration, or “ending” what once “was.” Rather, it is simply recognizing what is already true, and has been true from the beginning: these couples were unable, given their impediments, to freely consent to each other. They may have been sincere. They may have been deeply in love. But they didn’t have the true inner freedom to make a life-long vow. 

It’s a self evident truth today that many marriages unravel, creating enormous hurt and loneliness. The annulment process is the Church’s attempt to uphold the sanctity of marriage, as per the couple’s vow to each other to be faithful, even in sickness and health, good times and bad”,  while at the same time, to recognize the broken-ness in some lives that may make such a promise impossible to make. A woman would not be able to receive an  annulment simply because her husband was an adulterer—this is a clear example of a  “bad time” they vowed to work through—but the pastoral instinct and realism of the Church allows it to consider whether the defect in character that accounts for his infidelity might indeed have pre-dated his vows to her,  opening up the possibility for an annulment, and for this woman, a chance to start over.