Coaching Girls vs Boys – Is it Really That Different? ~ by Mike Mancini

Here is a guest post from Mike Mancini, coach, parent and website owner of “Athletic Training Now,” where he offers health information and training for the youth athlete. Fit2Finish is happy to support others in the field who are leading the way to health in youth sports. Here…..’s Mike!

When my daughter was born 13 years ago I was on the receiving end of some good-natured ribbing from family members and friends.  They knew how passionate I was about sports and how much time I had spent in a male dominated environment.  They wondered out loud how I was going to incorporate that mindset with a daughter the apple of her dad’s eye.  Over those 13 years, I have gained much experience in the variances she has as an athlete compared to her male counterparts.

As a coach and parent I came to realize the differences she had in athletics and her mindset toward sports, in general, from me and her male cousins, as well.  I saw some subtle and larger differences as she became involved in all girl teams and in some of her individual sports endeavors.  As a result, when my nephews got going with youth baseball, soccer and hockey, I became more in tune with the girls that were playing on some of their teams and their approach to the respective sport.

The difference between the boys game and the girls game is more than physical.

So, aside from the obvious physical differences, there are differences in mindset and mental approach, that a coach should consider depending on the gender they coach. Here are some points to consider when sending your child out to play in an organized sport.  Keep in mind that these are generalizations and each youngster is different:

Tough talk does not always work 

Most boys go into sports with the attitude that they are the next LeBron James or Albert Pujols.  That can be an embraceable attitude; however, what can happen is that they shut off what a coach might be trying to teach them.  They can have a ‘you’re not going to tell me something I don’t already know’ mentality, which can be a challenge as a coach.

What this translates to is a slower ‘buy in’ to the coaching philosophy.  It is going to take some time before that player is going to fully incorporate the teaching going on during the season.  Now some coaches confront this with a very hard line approach, which can work initially, but can also backfire into a trying to prove-the-coach-wrong mentality rather than a true developmental approach.

Girls tend to be more open to coaching and trying new things on the field, court or ice.  The coach tends to gain the girls’ respect more quickly.  However, girls tend to shut down with a hard line coaching approach.

Having fun is relative to each gender

There are subtle differences in what both genders enjoy in sports competition. Of course both boys and girls enjoy winning as opposed to losing.  However, guys tend to let it linger more than girls and tend to be more adamant about it, as well. (**Fit2Finish comment: Shakespeare knew, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”…but competitive girls keep it on the inside. They may not let it show that losing matters, but that’s all part of the female psyche. Don’t give your opponent the satisfaction of letting you know it bothers you. …”Never let ’em see you sweat.” Right ladies?)

When my daughter was on the swim team, I got frustrated a few times with the outcome when they lost a meet.  I would be stewing off to the side about various events that could have gone better and therefore could have given the team a better chance to win.  My daughter and many of her friends would shrug that off and talk about how cold the water was or what they were doing after the meet.

I saw that with my nephews who were on mixed teams, too.  If a hockey game was lost, one of my nephews would trudge out to the car upset about the loss and think about what the team could have done better, whereas many of the girls were off with smiles and plans for the rest of the day.

I would give my teams, after a loss, 24 hours to stew and sulk about it. After that it was full speed ahead in preparation for our next contest.

Again, I’m not saying that girls don’t care if they win or lose, but I believe their approach is more social than boys.  Boys tend to use wins and losses, or how well they did, as a barometer to their confidence levels.  Having a coaching philosophy that can involve more intense motivational techniques tend to work better with boys.

Self-confidence differences in boys and girls

In general, most boys do not lack confidence in themselves, at least on the surface. Guys tend to project this ‘tough guy’ image and that nothing the world has to offer can throw them off of their groove. 

Although not dwelling on failures is a good thing, it can be an inhibitor if the player doesn’t feel that he needs to work on his game to get better. One drawback with this type of outlook is that a player can get too caught up in how good they think they are and not on how they still could use some coaching to improve.

This is where an individual approach to coaching can help.  Even though a player outwardly shows that his ‘slump’ is not bothering him that does not mean it truly isn’t. Talking and working individually with those kids can help immensely in these situations. Singling them out in practice, in front of the team, can only further build the wall of resistance, but one-on-one sessions during, or after, practice can help break that down.

Girls tend to have more of a positive attitude, even when the game or season is not going the route they would have hoped. It is more intrinsic here, rather than a ‘face’ they have to put on outwardly. Explaining their role as part of the team and communicating on a positive, constructive level with a female athlete goes a long way toward their progress.  This tends to amplify their self-confidence as they grow as a player.

(**Fit2Finish comments: Mike has made a nice point here, though he is grouping the genders. Of course, among girls, as among boys, we have kids who thrive in the highly-contested, competitive environment and those who don’t. It is important to help your child identify this nature in him or herself. Some kids want to keep it social – both genders. Some  kids want to ramp it up – both genders. The difficulty comes in mis-matching the one for the other.)

Mike concludes, “Knowing some of these differences in gender and how each approaches sports can go a long way toward enabling kids to get the most out of their experiences and can help parents assist their child in finding the right (and healthiest) sporting situation.”

Fit2Finish adds, Let’s keep all our kids in the game. Which game is best? The one they enjoy enough to keep doing!

Thanks to Mike Mancini, coach, parent and website owner of “Athletic Training Now” specializing in youth sports, athletic/sports training, and where you can sign up for his Two Free Reports, “Mental Edge to Winning” and the “Physical Edge Strategies for Champions,” in addition to his free trial newsletter.

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