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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!