Tag Archives: Female athletes

The 3 R’s Of Coaching Female Athletes

Last winter, I wrote a post based on each letter of the alphabet.  The English major inside of me was very excited about this project…and my inner nerd was even more fired up!  As the blog vacation continues, I hope you enjoy reading about how coaching female athletes can be the highlight of your day…everyday.

Coaching female athletes is fun, inspiring, challenging, and motivating.  Though there are many, many similarities between coaching men and women…there are some differences.  Knowing, acknowledging, and acting on those differences can be the difference between a satisfying or miserable season.

3 things coaches must have to coach female athletes

Raison d’etre.  This is a French phrase that means “the purpose that justifies a thing’s existence.”  So what is the raison d’etre for the female team?  Of course, the most obvious purpose for any team is to experience success and win games.  The next purpose, regardless of gender, is that our goals can’t be accomplished alone…we need teammates.  The difference with female athletes is the motivation required to bring our teams to a place of success.  Changing the player’s perceptions of competition, accepting different personality types, and having common language for success are some of the necessary steps to creating raison d’etre.

Raconteur.  This is another French word (I was a French minor in college) that I love, because I enjoy telling stories.  A raconteur is a person who tells tales in a skillful and amusing way.  Not to toot my own horn (but toot! toot!), but I can tell a mean story.  I remember a time when my team was winning games, but not in the dominating fashion that we should.  I gathered the team around and told them about my childhood love of the video game Mortal Combat.  And how when you’d beaten your opponent, you had two choices.  You could merely hit him and advance to the next level or, knowing a special code, you could reach inside your opponent’s chest and literally rip his beating heart right out.  I’m sure you can imagine that the next team we faced got crushed.  Moral of the story: it’s okay for women to be tough and uncompromising in our pursuit of victory.

Raise the bar.  I’ve got a long list of pet peeves, but pretty high on the list is the shoulder shrug and helpless look some coaches have when they talk about coaching females.  Like, “women…what are ya gonna do?”.  It drives me crazy, because it makes poor behavior from female athletes okay.  Gossiping, not talking to teammates, treating teammates poorly…that’s all poor behavior that needs to be modified by the coach.  It’s not behavior that’s inherent to female teams, but if a coach believes that it is then they’ll let correctable actions go uncorrected.  The team will rise to the expectation level of the coach.  If we expect more, we’ll get more.

I enjoy coaching female athletes…and I want everyone to feel the same!  I believe if we stick with it, we’ll find the key to open up success for our teams.

T Is For Title IX: The History, The Myth, The Reality

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Last winter, I wrote a post based on each letter of the alphabet.  The English major inside of me was very excited about this project…and my inner nerd was even more fired up!  As the blog vacation continues, I hope you enjoy this post about Title IX.

I’ve said it a million times on this blog in a million different ways:  sport isn’t just about sport, but about learning the intangibles that will benefit its participants for the remainder of their lives.   Title IX enabled a whole new segment of our society to experience the joy of athletics…check out this post to learn more about what Title IX was intended to do and if it’s accomplished its mission.

The history.  I was at a conference a few years ago and learned that Title IX isn’t just a sports amendment…all I’d ever heard about it was in relation to gender equity for collegiate athletes.   In reality, the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any educational institution that receives federal money…from kindergarten to university.  Apparently, back in the day, schools would favor men in admissions policies, recruitment strategies, and financial aid packages.  That would clearly limit women’s access to education.  Title IX came about in 1972 to alleviate this problem.  It turns out that equity in athletics was a happy by-product of a much broader law.

The myth.  There are a lot of them so I won’t talk about them all, but I did want to hit a couple of them.  The first is “we don’t need Title IX anymore, everything’s all good.”  While things are most certainly better than they were before the amendment, we’ve still got a long way to go.  In terms of athletics, women receive less in scholarship money and less in opportunities to compete…so we still need folks to be mandated toward equity.  Secondly, a prevalent myth is “women’s sports are causing men’s sports to be cut.”  Schools aren’t cutting men’s sports because of women’s athletics…they’re cutting them because that’s the choice they’ve made.  Participation in men’s sports is growing.  Administrators have decided to cut some sports (notably men’s track and wrestling) to bolster financial support of more popular sports.

The reality.  Check out these numbers from the Women’s Sports Foundation and Equity Research Center:

  • Male athletes still receive 55% of college athletic scholarship dollars;
  • Women’s teams receive only 38% of college sport operating dollars and 33% of college athletic team recruitment spending.


All is not lost though!  Check out some of the great things that have happened since Title IX was enacted:

  • In 1995, women made up 37 percent of athletes in college, compared to 15 percent in 1972;
  • In 1996, girls constituted 39 percent of high school athletes, compared to 7.5 percent in 1971;
  • In 1994, women received 38 percent of medical degrees, compared with 9 percent in 1972; 43 percent of law degrees, compared with 7 percent in 1972; and 44 percent of all doctoral degrees, compared to 25 percent in 1977.


I believe athletics has made me a better person and I can’t imagine my life without sports.  Title IX is important to me because I believe in the benefits of sport…and I want to make sure everyone has as level a playing field as possible to experience those intangibles.

Want to know more?  Check out Title IX: A Brief History from the Equity Research Center.

10 Qualities We Want Our Female Athletes To Have

The blog vacation continues! Now that we’ve gone through the Pyramid of Success, it’s time to hit my favorite topic…coaching female athletes.  Is coaching females tremendously different than coaching males?  Nope.  But there are differences and understanding them could ensure a successful season for you.

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In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about beginning with the end in mind.  As coaches of female athletes, what qualities do we want them to have when their time with us is finished?

10 pieces of advice for our female athletes

  1. Be confident.  In the interest of connecting with the young folks, I went over to Urban Dictionary and looked up swagger…because I know my athletes know what that word means! Swagger means “to move with confidence and conduct yourself in a way that would automatically earn respect.”  I want my athletes to believe in themselves, their training, and their teammates.
  2. Be strong.  Not just mentally, though that’s important too.  I want my female athletes to feel comfortable in the weight room.  I want them to go to the free weights and know what to do.  I want them to be proud of their muscles and their strength.  Athletes will sometimes express reservations about getting “too big”.  Just tell them they’re not going to get big (without some unnatural help) and then tell them to go to the weight room.
  3. Be tough.  Sometimes when my team is really getting after it in the gym and they’re dragging a bit, I tell them about our cross country coach.  He runs 100-mile ultra-marathons in the summers.  I tell my team that I’m sure he gets tired, but it’s mind over matter.  I also remind them that they’re not running 100 mile ultra-marathons, so their energy shouldn’t be dragging.
  4. Be a student.  Smart players with high sport I.Q.’s are successful.  Smart players study scouting reports and know their opponent’s tendencies.  Smart players know their strengths and hide their weaknesses.  Smart players can’t get enough of learning about the game.  Smart players want to improve.  Let’s all encourage our athletes to learn about their sport.
  5. Be thoughtful.  Great players think when they play.  They’re not confused by the success or failure of a play…they can tell you exactly why things turned out the way they did.  In the chess match that is sport, thoughtful players succeed over those who just react.
  6. Be proud.  I never want my players to underestimate their abilities.  It’s a stereotypically female trait to downplay one’s contribution, but if they’re ballers…isn’t it okay for them to say they’re a baller?  Of course, I don’t want any player to take sole credit for a team victory, but I want them to be confident in their contribution to the team effort.
  7. Be decisive.  When female players lack that swagger or pride in what they bring to the team, they hesitate.  To overcome this hesitation problem, we have to create an atmosphere in our practices where aggressive play is rewarded.  Sure, they may make a mistake…but who doesn’t?
  8. Be great.  If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I love John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.  The peak of the pyramid is Competitive Greatness.  This is my greatest delight as a coach: to watch my female athletes execute under pressure…when everything is on the line.
  9. Be energetic.  In my mind, this is an underrated quality.  How many of our players can say that they brought high energy to practice every single day?  Every single week?  Every single month?  For the entire season…that’s a tall order!  It’s one of the hardest skills to teach…constant focus over the course of a long season.  It’s tough, but those teams that accomplish it are usually successful.
  10. Be passionate.  If our players love the sport, then the rest of these things I’ve talked about will happen.  Why?  Because their passion will make them stick with it when they’re discouraged, when they’re tired, when the team is losing, when they’re not getting a lot of playing time, when it gets hard, when they’re not playing well.  Enthusiasm and passion are contagious, let’s encourage our female athletes to bring them every day.


This post was based on the article, 10 tips for girls on how to be aggressive in basketball, over on layups.com…check it out!

Teaching Our Female Athletes To Value Toughness

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One of the things I hear a lot from young players is they don’t enjoy their team experience.  Sometimes they’ll say they don’t like their coach, their team isn’t very good, but many times (too many!), in a moment of honesty, they’ll say their teammate’s are bitches or their coach is a bitch.  Usually, they’ll whisper that word…but they still say it.  I believe it’s our job, as coaches, to take this word out of their vocabulary.

Navigating the world of toughness and bitchiness is a life lesson we must teach our female athletes.  This post was inspired by this article from Fast Company.

4 ways we can help our women embrace toughness and success

  1. Be confident.  “No matter who you are in the world of business, there will be people who find your methods unattractive. That’s intimidating for anyone, male or female.”  Sometimes women make the mistake of thinking we can make everyone happy, this quotation says that when we stick to our guns and follow our morals, some folks will be upset by our behavior.  We’ve got to be confident enough in our tactics and our leadership styles that we can manage not always being well-liked.
  2. Learn to “speak guy”.  In her book, Gender & Competition—How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently, Kathy DeBoer talks about the differences in how men and women communicate.  One phrase stood out to me as I read the book: “Die before you cry.”  She explained that men don’t see tears as getting in touch with your emotions, but rather they see it as weak and out of control.  Don’t do it…at least at the office.  These are great lessons that will not only help our players on the court, but also in the real world.
  3. Embrace unpopularity.  Part of being the boss is being unpopular.  I often joke with coworkers who are chatting in my office that if I were the big dog, they’d be in someone’s office talking about what a bad job I was doing.  I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re never happy with the boss…no matter how nice/understanding/amazing they are.  It’s the nature of the job.  What if we taught that lesson to our team captain’s so they’d be ready for the business world when they entered into it?
  4. Defining “bitch”.  “Assertive or competitive qualities are usually associated with men, and are thought to be essential for successful leaders. But for women, they can be a landmine.”  Being assertive and competitive are two of the qualities that will make women successful…on the field and off.  It’s also mislabeled as “bitchy”.  As the article says, if we’re being a mean and disrespectful person or if we’re elevating ourselves above our coworkers in a malicious way…then maybe we are being jerks and need to step back.  I hope my athletes never feel they have to apologize for being driven and goal-oriented.


Often, our athletes are afraid to lead because they have a bad stereotype in their heads about what a female leader looks like and how she acts.  Let’s help show them that women can be effective and successful leaders.

3 Communication Tips To Help Women Get What They Want

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I often say that athletics gives its participants a chance to learn all sorts of life skills.  I’m going to quote the President of Beloit College (where I work!) as he talks about the benefits of sport, because he’s much more eloquent than I am:  “Athletics offers a particularly clear connection between high discipline and high achievement.  Being effective in front of a highly attentive external audience in a high-stakes setting requires years of practice.  Staying calm, rational, and productive when chaos is reigning around you requires practice.”

Good stuff, huh?

We have an opportunity to give our female athletes a chance to practice quality communication.  It’s not something that comes naturally for a lot of folks (hence the ever-present belief that women can’t get along), so allowing our team leaders to get practice at it will give them a leg up not only in athletics, but in life.  If you’d like, check out this video, Why women don’t get what they want, it’s only about three minutes long.

3 way our female athletes can practice great communication

  1. Be direct.  I remember a team where I had great senior leadership.  There were four young ladies who were equally strong, but in much different ways.  My two “fun” captains were always complaining that the underclassmen weren’t listening to them.  They’d say, “When we were freshmen, we just followed whatever the seniors told us to do.”  And that was the difference.  My fun captains were asking their teammates rather than telling their teammates.  Asking opened the door for folks to choose something that the captains didn’t want whereas telling would not.  Of course there are times for telling and times for asking, but our leaders can’t get frustrated when their teammates pick an option when given an option.
  2. Be a listener.  Over the course of a season, there are bound to be times when a player may not be getting along with another player.  I’ve often said the source of all “girl drama” is conflict left unattended.  We have a chance to show our athletes how to handle conflict in a way that it doesn’t escalate into an epic battle…with teammates choosing sides.  How is that, you ask?  Listen.  Rather than trying to shout each other down or make their own point, what if each player listened to the other’s concerns?  This may take some mediation by a captain or a coach, but I think it’s a great way for our players to practice conflict resolution.
  3. Be an “I”.  Many times, our team leaders may try to soften requests they have of their teammates by saying “we” want to do something…or even “coach” wants us to do this or that.  According to the expert in the video, that weakens their position and their authority.  I think this is an invaluable life skill!  If we could get our female athletes to practice owning their words, we can call our time with them a success.  Even if they are relaying information from the coaching staff, our team leaders could say something like, “Coach says we have to be more focused in practice and I agree with that, because I believe we can win conference if we practice at a high level all of the time.”


Sure, being direct, choosing to address a conflict, and owning their words can be scary for our female athletes….that’s why we want to get them some practice at it!  But as our college’s president said, athletics is a high-stakes game and it takes practice.  Teamwork takes practice, leadership takes practice, and communication takes practice.

If you liked this one, check out How To Equip Our Female Athletes To Be Leaders and 4 Steps To Communicate Competently With Your Team.

10 Qualities We Want Our Female Athletes To Have

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In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about beginning with the end in mind.  As coaches of female athletes, what qualities do we want them to have when their time with us is finished?

10 pieces of advice for our female athletes

  1. Be confident.  In the interest of connecting with the young folks, I went over to Urban Dictionary and looked up swagger…because I know my athletes know what that word means! Swagger means “to move with confidence and conduct yourself in a way that would automatically earn respect.”  I want my athletes to believe in themselves, their training, and their teammates.
  2. Be strong.  Not just mentally, though that’s important too.  I want my female athletes to feel comfortable in the weight room.  I want them to go to the free weights and know what to do.  I want them to be proud of their muscles and their strength.  Athletes will sometimes express reservations about getting “too big”.  Just tell them they’re not going to get big (without some unnatural help) and then tell them to go to the weight room.
  3. Be tough.  Sometimes when my team is really getting after it in the gym and they’re dragging a bit, I tell them about our cross country coach.  He runs 100-mile ultra-marathons in the summers.  I tell my team that I’m sure he gets tired, but it’s mind over matter.  I also remind them that they’re not running 100 mile ultra-marathons, so their energy shouldn’t be dragging.
  4. Be a student.  Smart players with high sport I.Q.’s are successful.  Smart players study scouting reports and know their opponent’s tendencies.  Smart players know their strengths and hide their weaknesses.  Smart players can’t get enough of learning about the game.  Smart players want to improve.  Let’s all encourage our athletes to learn about their sport.
  5. Be thoughtful.  Great players think when they play.  They’re not confused by the success or failure of a play…they can tell you exactly why things turned out the way they did.  In the chess match that is sport, thoughtful players succeed over those who just react.
  6. Be proud.  I never want my players to underestimate their abilities.  It’s a stereotypically female trait to downplay one’s contribution, but if they’re ballers…isn’t it okay for them to say they’re a baller?  Of course, I don’t want any player to take sole credit for a team victory, but I want them to be confident in their contribution to the team effort.
  7. Be decisive.  When female players lack that swagger or pride in what they bring to the team, they hesitate.  To overcome this hesitation problem, we have to create an atmosphere in our practices where aggressive play is rewarded.  Sure, they may make a mistake…but who doesn’t?
  8. Be great.  If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I love John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.  The peak of the pyramid is Competitive Greatness.  This is my greatest delight as a coach: to watch my female athletes execute under pressure…when everything is on the line.
  9. Be energetic.  In my mind, this is an underrated quality.  How many of our players can say that they brought high energy to practice every single day?  Every single week?  Every single month?  For the entire season…that’s a tall order!  It’s one of the hardest skills to teach…constant focus over the course of a long season.  It’s tough, but those teams that accomplish it are usually successful.
  10. Be passionate.  If our players love the sport, then the rest of these things I’ve talked about will happen.  Why?  Because their passion will make them stick with it when they’re discouraged, when they’re tired, when the team is losing, when they’re not getting a lot of playing time, when it gets hard, when they’re not playing well.  Enthusiasm and passion are contagious, let’s encourage our female athletes to bring them every day.


This post was based on the article, 10 tips for girls on how to be aggressive in basketball, over on layups.com…check it out!

3 Pieces Of Advice for Female Athletes Once Their Playing Days Are Over

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Our female student-athletes hear lots of doom and gloom stories about what their professional careers will look like after graduation.  Whether it’s the glass ceiling or balancing career and family, they are understandably nervous as they try to figure out what they’ll do post-playing career.  Here’s how we can help alleviate some of those fears.

3 areas we can help our female athletes as they prepare for the future

Have high ambitions.  According to the article, New Research Busts Myths About the Gender Gap, there is a perception among business professionals that women are less ambitious than men.

How we can help:  We can teach our athletes not to accept mediocrity.  Much like we preach that they can’t “turn it on” come game time, it’s the same thing with having high goals for themselves.  If they have high goals for themselves on the court, in the weight room, and in the classroom…why wouldn’t they have high ambitions for themselves in the board room?  Once again I have to toot my athletes-are-more-prepared-for-the-real-world horn.

You can have a career and family.  And not just a career, but your dream career.  Every once in a while, a student will plop down in a chair in my office and wonder if they can have it all.  They don’t put it that way, but they wonder aloud if they can have that job they’ve dreamed about for years if they also have the spouse and family they’ve also dreamt about for years.

How we can help:  I usually talk to them about my career and family choices.  I get to do a job that I love and make a difference in young people’s lives…I can’t imagine doing anything else!  I’ve also got a husband who is more than willing to help out at home and who (more importantly) has a large family network where we live.  So when I’m out recruiting and he’s off working, grandma can step in and babysit.  As coaches, we’ve got to nip those “I’ll never be able to balance it all” worries in the bud before they get cemented as real thoughts.

Understand sponsorship.  Mentoring is a popular buzz word these days, but more and more, folks are saying sponsorship is much better than mentorship.  Mentoring means giving advice whereas sponsoring means putting in a good word for someone with higher ups.  Mentoring is saying, “I’ll email you with a list of common interview questions.”  Sponsoring is saying, “I worked with that AD a few years ago, let me give her a call and tell her you’d be an asset to her department.”

How we can help:  Let’s show them what it looks like.  Perhaps we can set up networking events on campus where our athletes can hob nob with the administrative folks on campus who are the decision makers.  As coaches, we’ve got to make sure that we keep up our end of the bargain by having great relationships all over campus, so that when we need to call in a favor…the phone gets answered.

The choices women have are too numerous to detail, let’s be sure we help our athletes to keep every post-competition option as a true option for themselves.

Like this post?  Check these out!

How To Equip Our Female Athletes To Be Leaders
What Are You Worth? How To Negotiate Salary
Female Leaders: How To Get Ahead And Not Alienate People

Free Motivating Female Athletes PowerPoint Download

After giving my presentation at the American Volleyball Coaches Association convention, many folks wanted a copy of the presentation…so many that I couldn’t actually answer all of the emails!

I’ve figured out, with a little help from friends, that setting up a link where you can download it for free would be the easiest (for me, at least) way to get it out to people.  So, click on the “add to cart” button below, and you’ll receive the presentation, Motivating Female Athletes, for free.

Add to Cart

Also, I wanted to remind you that I’ve got the ebook (Coach Dawn’s Guide to Motivating Female Athletes) for sale for $9.95…it comes with a Pyramid of Success presentation where you can listen to me talk about how I use the Pyramid with my teams.  It’s the AVCA presentation on steroids…if you like the free download, you’ll love the ebook!  Click here to find out more about that and you can click on the “add to cart” button below if you’d like to buy it.

Add to Cart

T Is For Title IX: The History, The Myth, The Reality

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Please join me for a fun series.  My mission, and I’ve chosen to accept it, is to write a post based on each letter of the alphabet.  The English major inside of me is very excited about this project…and my inner nerd is even more fired up!  Keep checking back as I tackle the intangibles of sport…from A to Z.

I’ve said it a million times on this blog in a million different ways:  sport isn’t just about sport, but about learning the intangibles that will benefit its participants for the remainder of their lives.   Title IX enabled a whole new segment of our society to experience the joy of athletics…check out this post to learn more about what Title IX was intended to do and if it’s accomplished its mission.

The history.  I was at a conference a few years ago and learned that Title IX isn’t just a sports amendment…all I’d ever heard about it was in relation to gender equity for collegiate athletes.   In reality, the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any educational institution that receives federal money…from kindergarten to university.  Apparently, back in the day, schools would favor men in admissions policies, recruitment strategies, and financial aid packages.  That would clearly limit women’s access to education.  Title IX came about in 1972 to alleviate this problem.  It turns out that equity in athletics was a happy by-product of a much broader law.

The myth.  There are a lot of them so I won’t talk about them all, but I did want to hit a couple of them.  The first is “we don’t need Title IX anymore, everything’s all good.”  While things are most certainly better than they were before the amendment, we’ve still got a long way to go.  In terms of athletics, women receive less in scholarship money and less in opportunities to compete…so we still need folks to be mandated toward equity.  Secondly, a prevalent myth is “women’s sports are causing men’s sports to be cut.”  Schools aren’t cutting men’s sports because of women’s athletics…they’re cutting them because that’s the choice they’ve made.  Participation in men’s sports is growing.  Administrators have decided to cut some sports (notably men’s track and wrestling) to bolster financial support of more popular sports.

The reality.  Check out these numbers from the Women’s Sports Foundation and Equity Research Center:

  • Male athletes still receive 55% of college athletic scholarship dollars;
  • Women’s teams receive only 38% of college sport operating dollars and 33% of college athletic team recruitment spending.


All is not lost though!  Check out some of the great things that have happened since Title IX was enacted:

  • In 1995, women made up 37 percent of athletes in college, compared to 15 percent in 1972;
  • In 1996, girls constituted 39 percent of high school athletes, compared to 7.5 percent in 1971;
  • In 1994, women received 38 percent of medical degrees, compared with 9 percent in 1972; 43 percent of law degrees, compared with 7 percent in 1972; and 44 percent of all doctoral degrees, compared to 25 percent in 1977.


I believe athletics has made me a better person and I can’t imagine my life without sports.  Title IX is important to me because I believe in the benefits of sport…and I want to make sure everyone has as level a playing field as possible to experience those intangibles.

Want to know more?  Check out Title IX: A Brief History from the Equity Research Center.

Come See My Session At The AVCA Convention

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I wanted to hit pause on the A to Z series so that I can let you know that I’ll be speaking at the AVCA convention this Saturday.  If you’re here in San Antonio, I’d love for you to stop by and hear my talk and most importantly…introduce yourself!

It will be a classroom session at 11:30 a.m. (Room 217A) and the title is, “Motivating Female Athletes”.  I’m excited about it and I certainly hope you’ll come check me out!

Here are the subtopics I’ll cover:

  • The socialization of females
  • Identify your ideal female athlete
  • Create team chemistry
  • Battle “girl drama”
  • Train leaders & followers
  • Create a competitive culture


I’m such a convention dork…I love everything about it!  I’ve learned so much at them over the years that I’m pretty fired up to be able to give back.

See you in a couple of days!