TOPIC: How to coach girls
How to coach girls 1 year, 8 months ago #1020
How to coach girls
Coaches who have girls and boys in their team often wonder about the implications of coaching the "fairer sex".
They want to know:
Do I have to treat girls and boys differently?
Do I need to plan coaching sessions for girls in a special way?
Do girls want to win as much as boys? Will they work as hard?
This article will help you answer these questions. But before we look at the differences between girls and boys and the implications these differences have for youth soccer coaches, let's see what girls and boys have in common.
Firstly, boys and girls want to play soccer for largely the same reasons.
Almost 900 children playing soccer in a tournament in the USA children were asked a series of questions relating to their attitude to soccer.
Their responses to the statement: "I play soccer because I want to... " were summarised as:
Have fun 99% 94%
Improve at my sport 98% 94%
Learn new skills 95% 89%
Be competitive 94% 94%
Get in shape 92% 88%
Be with friends 92% 87%
The same survey asked questions relating to winning. And that's where a significant gender difference emerged.
In answer to the question: "How important is winning when playing soccer?" 80% of the boys said that winning was "important" or "very important" compared to just 61% of the girls.
A similar gender difference emerged when they were asked how important playing fairly was to them. 72% of the girls said that playing fairly was "important" or "very important" while only 48% of the boys tried not to break the rules.
Of course, we don't know how much the attitude of the players' coaches influenced these responses. Could it be that the coaches of the girls' teams placed less emphasis on winning than the boys' coaches?
Interestingly for those of you who have been following the playing time debate on footy4kids, 78% of boys – but only 54% of the girls – agreed with the statement that it is more important for key players to play in order to win than for everyone to get equal playing time.
Similarly, 53% of girls agreed it was important "that everyone gets a chance to play" compared to 34% of the boys.
These results back up my own experience of coaching boys and girls teams over the years.
I have learned – often the hard way – that:
1. Girls 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".
2. 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 10 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're coaching girls you have to be:
People oriented and democratic.
Very aware of the relationships between players.
Give lots of positive encouragement.
Get player input, ask for suggestions and never lecture.
Treat every player in the squad exactly the same.
Plan relatively low intensity training sessions that include lots of games and several rest breaks.
To be honest, 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.
 Healy Jonas, M. "Attitude towards competition: do differences exist between boys and girls?" Melpomene Journal, Vol. 21, no. 2, 2002, p. 21-28.
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