Over the last fifteen years, I’ve coached all girls teams, all boys teams and mixed teams and I’ve learned – often the hard way! – that there are some key things to remember when coaching the ‘fairer sex’.
Girls, typically, are more analytical than boys and will not accept what a coach says at face value. They will want to know why they should do something a particular way more than boys will. If you try to be dictatorial, girls will simply switch off whereas boys may accept what you say because you’re ‘the boss’.
Team unity is more important to girls than boys. So if you coach girls you have to make sure that you give more or less equal playing time to everyone in the squad, regardless of their ability, even in the most important games. If you don’t, the girls won’t thank you if they win but they will remember that you were ‘unfair’ to their friends.
Also, a girls’ coach has to be constantly on the lookout for the emergence of little cliques. Small groups within teams are always damaging whether you coach boys or girls but they can permanently split a girls team in a matter of days. If you coach girls, listen carefully to their conversations and watch how they interact with each other
Girls usually place more emphasis on ‘fair play’ than boys who are more likely to bend the rules. So girls’ matches are often more pleasant, stress-free event…as long as you can keep their parents under control.
Boys are more likely than girls to blame outside factors (the referee, the weather, the coach) if they lose whereas individual female players will often blame themselves for a poor team performance, even if it is unjustified. So you need to spend a lot of time with girls reinforcing the notion that it’s effort that counts, not results.
As far as their capacity for physical work is concerned, there is no difference between boys and girls until they reach puberty.
From the age of about ten the anaerobic capacity of boys – their ability to work hard in short bursts – quickly outstrips girls and coaches who have both boys and girls in their team should be careful to plan their coaching activities accordingly.
To sum up.
If you coach a girls’ team you have to:
- Be democratic, not a ‘P.E. teacher’ type of coach;
- Be aware of the relationships between players;
- Give lots of positive encouragement;
- Get player input: ask for suggestions and never lecture;
- Treat every player in your squad exactly the same;
- Plan training sessions that include lots of games and several socialising breaks.
Of course, this is a good way to coach boys too. But you can often get away with telling boys what to do and not paying much attention to their relationships.
Try doing that with girls and you won’t last very long, I assure you!
Bottom line: It’s not sexist to consider if girls need to be coached differently to boys. All you’re doing is trying to coach them as effectively as you can.