Archive for the ‘Female athletes’ Category

Play Like A Girl

04 Jul

Little Girl Holding Basketballsource

I don’t know if you’ve seen this #LikeAGirl youtube video, but you should check it out.  The throw/run/play/etc. “like a girl” phrase is still a thing on athletic fields and PE classes all over the country.  Watch this video, share it, and show it to the young people you coach

Like A Girl

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Posted in Female athletes


Coaches Corner: Women Coaching Women

09 Jun

woman coachingsource

I enjoy coaching women. Not because they’re dramatically different than coaching men, but because I never had a female head coach as an athlete and I think that’s too bad. Think about the ruckus it causes when a woman coaches men in anything. Then think about the complete lack of commotion it causes when men coach women. Men expect to be coached by men…and women kinda do, too.

That’s starting to change, though. Nowadays, women and girls can realistically have a different expectation of leadership and they can rightfully assume that it will look like them. Women coaching women isn’t necessarily an easier or tougher path than some other combination of genders, but the higher up in sport you get, the harder it is to find women coaching women or girls. I don’t really want to get too in-depth with that (you can do an internet search for “Acosta Carpenter report” for hard numbers), but suffice it to say the women’s coaching profession is like a pyramid, with the majority of females in high school and Division three…and the numbers get progressively smaller as you go up levels.

So what do you do if you find yourself leading an amazing group of women? Coach ‘em up! When I spoke to Melissa Wolter, head volleyball coach at the University of West Florida, she gave me a list of things she is sure to do that have helped her successfully lead women over the years.

3 advantages of women coaching women

  1. Identify with them. Wolter says she doesn’t play this card too often, but that it sometimes comes into play. You may decide, as a coach, that there are no excuses on your team (Got big boobs? Double up on sports bras! Having your period? Better have what you need!), but your athletes will never be able to pull the “coach just doesn’t understand” card with you.
  2. Connect on a woman-to-woman level. As a female, you’ve been where they are and understand the quirks unique to being a woman in athletics…and how your athletes can parlay that experience into a phenomenal future. This is bigger than point number one, this is guiding them from one place to another…from girl to woman, from student to professional.
  3. Show and gain trust. Wolter says that once you gain your player’s trust, they’ll run through walls for you. I’ve sat in front of many an athlete who complains about not liking her teammates, her coach, or the drama that her team is having. All of that goes back to trust and the lack of it she’s experienced in her young life collaborating with other females. A coach would do well to put the time in to show her players the benefits of trusting her teammates.

I hope more and more women get into coaching. It’s a great profession and your ability to change and influence lives is what gets us all up in the morning.

More about coaching female athletes
The Joys Of Coaching Female Athletes
3 Ways Women Can Be Effective Leaders
The 3 R’s Of Coaching Female Athletes
Wanna buy my book?

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!

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Posted in Coaches Corner, Female athletes


Coaches Corner: Coaching Female Athletes

14 May

Track and Field: U.S. Olympic Team Trialssource

Working with female athletes is a joy. Not because it’s always easy. Not because it’s always fun. But because it is always valuable and rewarding. I’ve written lots about it, you should check it out!

It could be watching a shy freshman transform herself into a confident senior. Or it could be challenging an athlete to believe in her inner strength…my fancy way of saying that she can accomplish an overwhelming goal without tears or some other outward display that is distracting to the team. Or it could be showing love to a player who is not quite receptive.

Coaching is sometimes about doing the hard thing. Like parents, we coaches have the long view in mind and sometimes we have to push our athletes in a way they don’t understand in order to get a result they could never have imagined.

Ron Sweet, head volleyball coach at Wofford University, is a male coach of female athletes and he’s been successful with all age groups. This leads to the obvious question: How has he done it?

3 keys to successfully coaching female athletes

  1. Build them up. In his years of coaching, Sweet has learned that women tend to undervalue themselves, while men tend to overvalue themselves…and scholars back up his theory. You can read article after article where folks in the business world lament that women won’t negotiate salary or even apply for certain jobs, because they don’t feel worthy. We have a chance, as coaches, to show our players their worth.
  2. Instill confidence. Lest you think this is a kumbaya article about dealing with your female athletes, don’t worry, it’s not. Sometimes instilling confidence in your players involves setting them up to and letting them fail. The old adage that says nothing is certain but death and taxes doesn’t have it quite right. Failure is certain at some point and we’ve got to help our players face it, accept it, and even welcome it so that they can become their best athletic selves.
  3. Motivate them. To know Ron Sweet is to love Ron Sweet. I’ve never coached with him or been coached by him, but I know he’s a pretty engaging guy. And he’s a pretty perceptive guy (I’ve not met many male coaches who can articulate what his female athletes need in the way that Sweet did here), so I’m sure he’s able to deliver the figurative kick in the butt when it’s needed as well as the literal arm around the shoulder. We can’t have just one trick in our motivation bag.

In coaching female athletes, we have an amazing opportunity to challenge them to be tougher than they think they are and to shape their view of themselves and how they can impact the world. Let’s do it!

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!

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Posted in Coaches Corner, Female athletes


Teams Need Conflict To Function Effectively

22 Jan


It’s no secret that I don’t believe in “girl drama”.  I always put that phrase in quotations because I know that folks understand what I mean when I say it, but I still want them to know I think it’s a myth.  In my opinion, “girl drama” happens when conflict management goes awry.

This Harvard Business Review article, Conflict Strategies for Nice People, talks about why conflict has a place on teams.  I’d go a step further and say it’s imperative for women’s teams to understand and embrace conflict.  “Girl drama” isn’t the absence of conflict, but rather the absence of communication about the conflict.

The cost of avoiding conflict

  1. You don’t get your alternative perspective on the table.
  2. You can’t challenge faulty assumptions.
  3. You don’t have the chance to highlight hidden risks.

Why conflict is good

  1. It allows the team to address difficult situations.  Teams are wrought with difficult situations.  A teammate could be slacking off in the weight room.  Texting through a video session.  Or just not working hard in practice.  While I would certainly intervene, I’d hope my team leaders would feel comfortable interjecting themselves into the narrative.
  2. It creates a space to synthesize diverse perspectives.  Years ago, I had a team with very different ideas about the way the team should conduct themselves after games, especially after losses.  One camp was the “hush your mouth and don’t say anything to me” group, while the other was the “that game is over so no need to be down-faced about it”.  They were able to come together and find a happy medium that worked for everyone.
  3. It pushes the team to make sure solutions are well thought out.  Not communicating is easy, because it doesn’t involve compromise.  Once we start talking and hearing diverse opinions, coming to a thoughtful resolution is harder, but will have more buy-in since there was compromise and communication.
  4. It is the source of true innovation.  Sometimes the way we’ve always done things needs to change.  Just because we’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s best, right, or effective.
  5. It is a critical process in identifying and alleviating risks.  Conflict puts us into a space where we’re hearing differing opinions.  Those different opinions give us, as coaches, a more nuanced view of our team. We should embrace a little conflict among our staff to make sure we’re making the best choices for the benefit of our teams.  Our coaches have to feel free to challenge us on our decisions or what’s the point of having them there?

Commit to conflict

So we all agree that conflict is good, right?  Don’t go away just yet!  Now you’ve got to teach your players effective conflict resolution strategies or you’ll have a bunch of feuding cliques on your team.  Check out this post, Feeling Comfortable With Conflict, for some ideas.

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Posted in Female athletes


Feeling Comfortable With Conflict

10 Sep


If I wrote a post called, Conflict Keeps Teams at the Top Of Their Game, what would you think?  Many of you probably wouldn’t believe me, but when I read that headline on the Harvard Business Review’s website, I thought it was great.

When I speak to various groups about their female athletes and how to beat the cursed “girl drama”, I explain that in my opinion it all comes down to how their team handles conflict.  If their players view conflict as inherently negative, then when it ultimately arises (it always does) they don’t know how to handle the situation.

Why teams experience conflict

At the beginning of our season, I explain to my team that it won’t always be this way.  Day 1, everyone sees themselves as a starter.  Day 1, people haven’t started to get on each other’s nerves yet.  Day 1, the players aren’t trying to balance practice and relationships and school work.  So it’s all great.

Eventually starters are named.  Personality conflicts may arise.  By midseason, players are frazzled with the grind of the season and trying to balance it all with their school work and having a social life.  If we don’t warn them this will happen, they’re going to be blindsided and think something is wrong, when it’s actually perfectly normal.

The contradiction of teams

Before I really sat down and thought about it, I didn’t realize how odd the idea of “team” can be.  Think about it: We’ve got a group of athletes who are committed to a common goal (because they can’t accomplish it by themselves), but there are subsets of folks within the group who are in direct competition with one another.  If we don’t think conflict will happen in that environment, we’re crazy.

Preparing your athletes for conflict

  1. Take feelings out of it.  When conflict first rears its head, it feels very uncomfortable.  That feeling sometimes makes our athletes feel as if the team is experiencing problems, when it’s actually going through a very normal part of the team building process.
  2. Creatively solve problems.  I’m sure coaches out there have all sorts of solutions to guide their teams through conflict resolution, but my favorite is to have them take personality tests.  In my experience, we’re all (players and coaches alike) drawn to complementary personality types and generally have conflict with those folks who aren’t like us.  For example, the super quiet player might think the very outgoing player is really annoying.  Showing our players how much of their conflict could arise from something as simple as an opposing personality type keeps the conflict from feeling personal.
  3. It’s bound to happen…and that’s good!  If you’re scanning this post and not really reading the whole thing, I hope this one thing sticks out to you.  We’ve got to tell our teams that conflict will happen and that it’s okay.  Make sure you equip them with some great conflict resolution skills (Don’t know any?  Check out the posts below.) and watch them flourish.  Conflict isn’t bad…not dealing with conflict is bad.

Collaboration and success won’t happen when conflict is seen as negative.  Let’s all agree to educate our teams on healthy conflict resolution tactics.

If you enjoyed this post, check out 5 Ways To Make Conflict Work For You And Your Team, A Step By Step Guide To Handling Conflict On Teams, 3 Keys To Building Collaboration Within A Competitive Culture, and Teaching Our Players How To Handle Conflict.

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Posted in Female athletes, Team chemistry


3 Lessons Our Female Athletes Should Learn

05 Sep


While I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a feminist, I do think there are certain things that coaches of female-athletes must talk to their athletes about.  I don’t mean sit them down at a team meeting and talk, but it can be an in the bus talk or a between tournament games talk…you know, casual.

What are those things?  Title IX for one. This is a great time to do it because it’s the fortieth anniversary of the amendment this year.  I’ve found that women don’t understand that we didn’t always have fancy pants uniforms and stay at nice hotels like the guys.   We didn’t always even have the same access to athletic facilities…our women need to know and appreciate these things.

As coaches, we’re trying to prepare our athletes for the next stage…of athletics and of life, so that’s where these other three things come in.  With the goal always being creating a group of young women who are so informed and confident that they’re ready to take over the world (seriously!), here are three areas where we can affect their growth.

3 things we should try to teach our female-athletes

  1. It’s okay to talk about being a woman.  Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and was recently named the first woman to its board.  Beyond all of her amazing accomplishments, she’s been quite vocal about being a business woman.  You can click here to hear her great TEDtalk.  She says that early on she felt that she shouldn’t focus on the differences and that she was actually counseled to not talk about it.  In the past, I had similar reservations about talking to my team about female specific issues.  Now, I feel that I’m doing them a disservice if I don’t talk to them about it.
  2. There can be work/life balance.  Life is all about choices.  I give private lessons to a Division One athlete who says that I should move up to that level.  I’ve gotten numerous calls from folks at bigger and higher level institutions than mine and my answer is always the same: I’m happy here.  I’m not saying all of this to toot my own horn, but to show our players that they have a choice.  Luckily I’ve got plenty of people to use as examples for my team: myself…I’ve chosen to stay at a manageable level for myself.  But I’ve also got friends who are higher up corporate big-wigs who have families (and probably a lot more money than me!) and love their life.  We’ve also got to let our players know that not wanting it all is okay too.  But they should be warned, there’s no work/life balance for a stay-at-home mom…it’s work/work balance!
  3. Women are good enough.  My sister-in-law is a big shot with a major corporation and is in charge of leading hundreds, if not thousands, of people.  One of the things she’s talked to me about since I was in college is that women don’t advocate for themselves.  She would tell me about entering the negotiation process with women and not having to do much, even though she had additional thousands available to offer, because women just take what is offered.  Whereas men would negotiate for salary, stock options, and vacation time.  She’s not alone, check out this post about negotiating salary.  I tell my players this story because I want them to understand that they’re not being rude by negotiating…it’s expected!

This post was inspired by this great article about Sheryl Sandberg, Sheryl Sandberg’s lessons on women and success, check it out!

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Posted in Female athletes


Why Women’s Athletics? Selling Its Benefits In Tough Economic Times

31 Aug


I wrote this article for the Fall 2010 NCAA Champion magazine.  I found that the more I talked to female athletes at all levels, many of them really didn’t understand Title IX or the value of women’s athletics.  My goal in this article wasn’t to prove that the volleyball team brings in as much money as the men’s ice hockey team, but that the benefit of sport (and women’s sports in particular) is more than the bottom line of a budget sheet.

Do you know what your team’s view of Title IX is?  More than likely, they view their athletic selves as the balance for men’s athletics…and I’d say that that should not be the case.  Women’s athletics stands alone as important and beneficial without the need to “balance out” athletic departments.  Viewing volleyball and softball and field hockey as existing solely to enable men to play their sports and be in compliance with the law is a pretty powerless and pathetic existence.

I read a great article on the Financial Times website titled, “A Good Economist Knows the True Value of the Arts”, which talked about how the arts, hospitals, and sports try to demonstrate their relevance by selling their economic value.  I’m sure you’ve heard the schpiel:  women’s volleyball is helping the university by bringing families onto campus and they’re buying concessions, the concessions stand is employing workers, and the facility is able to employ more folks for maintenance and crowd control.  But the author asserts that those are costs, not benefits, and that the savvy athletic director should (if it all comes down to finances) cut volleyball because the financial benefit does not come close to the financial cost taken on by the college.  Here’s a great quotation from that article:

The value of an activity is not what it costs, but the amount by which its benefit exceeds its costs. The economic contribution of sport is in the pleasure participants and spectators derive, and the resulting gains in health and longevity. That value is diminished, not increased, by the resources that need to be diverted from other purposes.

So if finances aren’t the way to sell women’s athletics to our colleagues (who may silently believe that we are there for balance only) or the higher ups who are taking hard looks at the budget…what are our selling points?  Where are the places that, like the quotation above says, the benefits of women’s athletics exceed its costs?  There are many advantages to sports participation that will stay with its participants for life, here are a few.

Health Young ladies who participate in sports reduce their chance of getting breast cancer by 60% according to Journal of the National Cancer Institute (1994)…at a time where one in eight women have gotten or will be diagnosed with breast cancer, that’s huge!  On top of that, it’s been proven that performing weight bearing exercises while young will help fight off osteoporosis later in life.

Mentors Little girls need to see that sports are for them too.  They need to see that women can be aggressive and competitive and achievers…that’s where our teams come in!  I don’t know about you, but I was never the stereotypical “girly girl”, wearing pink and playing with dolls, so sports participation was always a part of my life.  But what if, through watching our athletes play, that stereotype shifted to include having a lacrosse stick or golf club in her hand?

Learning to excel in a team environment Go to any business magazine or read any book designed for managers and you’ll see the word “team” over and over again.  The ability to strive within a team construct should be the hallmark of women’s athletics.  Our athletes learn leadership, how to win and lose with grace, how to recognize strengths and weakness in themselves and others…and use those to their advantage, and how to perform under pressure.  All characteristics that will serve them well after their time on our fields and courts is over.

Let’s all agree to talk to our teams about what they do and why it’s important.  To explain that both men’s and women’s athletics can stand on their own respective two feet…both strong and autonomous.  By doing this, we will equip them to answer the question: why women’s athletics?

What has your department done in terms of educating your student athlete population?  How about education for the coaching staff?  Any other ideas?

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Posted in Female athletes


Female Leaders: How To Get Ahead And Not Alienate People

29 Aug


Hey ladies…it’s true!  We always thought that it was, now there’s proof.  A study by the Harvard business school shows that when women asked for raises, not only were their bosses less inclined to give them the raise, “but they also didn’t like the women very much” for asking!  Why?  According to this article, we (you, me, everyone) are culturally wired to see women as advocates for others…not themselves.  So much so, that even when women assert themselves and become their own advocates, everyone is uncomfortable with the perceived selfishness.

Since folks see women as being more emotional and relationship-oriented, turn those perceptions on their heads and make them work for you!  When talking to your boss, make it all about the group as a whole (I’ve written before about women being all about the relationships) and how the pay raise, or additional assistant coach, or more expensive equipment will benefit your team and the department…not just you specifically.

3 targeted techniques women can use to get ahead in the business world

1.       Talk about how much you care about the team.  Women are seen as caring and nurturing, so use that to your advantage in negotiations.  Explain how this upgrade in pay or staffing or equipment benefits your team and will make their experience on your team better.  It’s not about you…it’s about the team.

2.       Explain how important your relationships are to you.  Talk about how you benefit the office and what you bring to the table.  If you’re a female coaching females, you can talk about how important it is to you that your athletes learn to get along and work together under a female leader.  You can explain how preparing your athletes for the “real world” is your highest aim.  Again, you’re not asking for the upgrade just for yourself, but so that you can better serve your team.

3.       Articulate how much you love your job and would hate to perform it at any level other than excellent. This may be the time to mention that you’re the lowest paid (but most successful) coach in your conference, or how your facilities are the oldest of all “like” schools…whatever it is that you’re asking for.  Again, you’re explaining how much you love your job, your school, and your team…and how it pains you not to do everything at a top-notch level.

There you go coach!  The next time you feel like you’re up for a little bump in pay or your program has needs, use these techniques and success is sure to follow.  It’s also a great tool to teach our female athletes for when their playing careers are over and it’s time to (literally) get down to business.

Click here and you can get Coach Dawn Writes articles emailed directly to your inbox!  It’s free and easy…and you won’t get spammed.  Really!

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Posted in Coaching career, Female athletes


Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes Is Available For Purchase!

27 Aug


I wrote my book because I saw a need for coaches of female athletes to be excited about working with female athletes.  Up to that point, every post I’d written about coaching female athletes received such a strong (and positive) response.  If you’ve not had a chance to purchase the book, I hope you’ll think about it.  The second edition also comes with a Pyramid of Success powerpoint. It’s only 56 pages long, so it’s a quick read that you’ll be able to apply to your team right away.

As you can tell from the picture, I’m very excited that my ebook is finally available for purchase!  I’m new at all of this selling business, so it’s been a bit of a process to figure everything out.  It was all worth it, though, because I’m confident that there’s good information that you’ll use in Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes.

I’ve written before about how important I think professional development is for folks with our jobs.  I mean, how can coaches not want to learn more?  And if you learn one thing from my book (and I think you’ll a lot more!), then it’ll be well worth the $10!  It’s a 56-page guide with tangible tips, action items, anecdotes designed to help your team excel…and because it’s a PDF, you’ll be able to start reading immediately!

I’m super excited about all things ebook, right now!  I’m excited about that snazzy cover, I’m excited about figuring out how to set everything up, but mostly…I’m excited that I can get more info out there about how to get the best from your female athletes!  I don’t want to rewrite what I said before, so you can click here to read what I wrote when it was an upcoming book rather than a published book.

Add to Cart

I hope you’ll buy the book and enjoy it…and tell all of your friends about it (hint, hint)!  $10 and it’s all yours…enjoy!  Once you complete your purchase, you’ll immediately be able to start reading the book.  Just click on the “Add to Cart” button and you’ll be well on your way.

I pre-launched the book with the folks on my subscriber list last week and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response.  Lots of people are looking for this information and enjoying the book…hopefully you will too!

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Posted in Female athletes


The Joys Of Coaching Female Athletes

24 Aug


Last summer, I spent a month writing about the different things that I love about coaching.  It’s an exercise I’d highly recommend for all coaches.  I’m sure every one of us has moments when the grind threatens to get us down…that’s when we need to remember what we love about what we do.  For me, one of those things is coaching female athletes.

Usually, when I tell someone that I love coaching female athletes, the person I’m talking to starts giggling.  Granted, I’m a pretty funny lady, but that’s one topic I don’t joke about.  During “I Love Coaching” month, I’ve been talking about the things that make my heart happy about this profession.  One of the biggies, and certainly near the top of the list, is working with female athletes. So whether you think I’m crazy and need to be convinced or you totally agree…read on to find out three of the reasons that working with female athletes rocks my world!

3 things I love about coaching female athletes

Teaching the intangibles. All the stuff that this blog is about: leadership, team chemistry, goal setting, the mental side of our sport…I love, love, love working with female athletes on that stuff!  Why?  Because I firmly believe that women can get along work together well, they just need to be taught how to coexist on a team.  I believe that when the coach firmly lays out their expectations for behavior on the team, their female athletes will fall into line.  Will playing time be yanked if you find out your players have been gossiping, fighting, or bullying their teammates?  I bet they’ll stop that nonsense right away if it is.  Confronting negative behavior while giving them a model of appropriate behavior is what coaching is all about…whether it’s tangibles or intangibles.

Lifelong benefits of sport. Think about this:  research suggests that girls who participate in sports are less likely to get involved with drugs, less likely to get pregnant and more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not play sports.  Why?  Because they’re accountable to a team and a coach…something bigger than themselves.  They won’t do drugs because they know if they get caught, they can’t play.  They’re less likely to get pregnant because their self-esteem doesn’t come solely from the attention they get from boys…they’re confident in themselves.  They’re more likely to graduate from high school because their coach probably has minimums for participation and she wants to play…so she adheres to the guidelines.  Isn’t that awesome?

Feel the love! Female athletes love “the team”.  Female athletes are so relational and caring that they can genuinely revel in the successes of their teammates. Check out this picture of the Penn State volleyball team as they celebrate a victory.  They physically connect with one another, their eyes are locked, they’re tuned in!


Now your job, Coach, is to sell your team on the fact that giving a correction to their teammate is loving that teammate.  And that not accepting poor behavior off of the court is loving your teammate.  Finally, that going all out every practice so that they can make each other better is loving their teammates.

Of course there are challenges associated with any team that we’ll coach, but those challenges shouldn’t be gender-based. If you’re coaching female athletes…consider yourself lucky!

Want more info on the topic?  Check out my ebook, Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes.

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Posted in Female athletes