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.

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