Book Review: Gender & Competition


In 2000, I took my first collegiate head coaching job.  While I was fired up about coaching and volleyball…I was pretty clueless about what it took to be successful as a leader of young women.  That same year, I went to my coaches convention where Kathy DeBoer was the keynote speaker and it was an eye opening experience to say the least.   Her topic was “Improving the Competitiveness of Your Female Team” and she’s expanded that two-day seminar into a great book, Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently. Here’s a bit about her book:

The rundown: The book is filled with stories from her coaching days and missteps she made with some of her female players, but also stories from her time in athletics administration.  At the heart of the matter is a generation of female coaches who may not have had female coaches themselves who then try to coach as they were coached by men…and the utter disaster that follows. Of course I’d suggest that you read the book, but basically it comes down to women having different expectations from other women than they do from men.

That’s one side of the story.  The other side is how to motivate female athletes for greatness.  DeBoer says that culturally, young girls view winning and losing as opposite of the “closeness that females value” and avoid it in play activities.  As you read this, your eyes will be opened to the type of environment that you can create to help your female team embrace competition.

Recommended for: Coaches of female athletes…whether male or female.  It gives good insight into why our athletes are the way they are and what they need from us to push them to be great.

Not recommended for: People who insist that there aren’t gender differences, because that’s the basic premise of the book.  As DeBoer says, “until recently, it was not politically correct to think of women as different.  If you said women were equal, then they couldn’t be different.  The wonderful news is we can now say women are equal and different.  And that’s a huge and dramatic breakthrough.”

Great book and it’d make a great gift for the coach in your life…or for yourself to read over winter break.