Coaches adjust instructional approach when guiding female athletes

Bill Newland (center) coaches and makes adjustments for the girls varsity basketball team during a time out.

Bradyn Johnson | The Chronicle

No two athletes are the same, and it is a common misnomer to coach both genders that way.  

Versatile coaches have the ability to transition their coaching styles to accommodate all genders of athletes. They can spot differences in anatomy as well as mental approaches and apply adequate coaching techniques.

The noticeable contrast has altered the way that coaches have coached because they see the differences in how each gender plays and how they react to coaching. There can also be differences in how both boys and girls respond to criticism, how they handle their environments when competing and their reactions to motivation and stern coaching. 

Girls Basketball coach Bill Newland took note of differences between the athletes when he transitioned from coaching men’s collegiate basketball to women’s collegiate basketball at Wilmington College, and then again to girls’ high school basketball. Newland said that the more physical nature of mens’ games typically leads to a faster pace of play in comparison to the pace of both girls’ high school and womens’ college games.

“If we were to line the girls and boys team up to have a foot race, the boys would probably win,” Newland said. “Therefore the game itself is played a little bit faster.”

Although a faster pace plays a large part in the differentiation between boys and girls basketball, athleticism is not the only aspect that determines the contrast. Newland believes that motivation also challenges the flexibility of ability to mold themselves into their role, and said that motivation has no gender in sports, and it comes down to an individual’s reaction to learning. 

“There’s a difference in how you motivate any individual to learn that technique,” Newland said. “Everyone is different.”

Girls Cross Country coach Chip Dobson said that throughout his years as a coach, he has seen a clear-cut difference between the ways boys and girls are motivated.

“Having coached both, I found that I think girls are a little easier to motivate”, Dobson said. ”They seem more focused and driven.”

Regardless of gender, each athlete is unique in how they generate motivation. Some find it within themselves, and others need a coach to drive it out of them. Dobson said that he has noticed situations where boys have been more difficult to coach because of their headstrong qualities that may deter them from being coachable. 

“I think it can be challenging with boys because sometimes there’s different compliance issues,” Dobson said. “Sometimes boys can be more stubborn.”

Egos tend to play a larger role amongst male athletes which can tilt a coach’s style, further fostering a competitive environment that the boys tend to create whereas the girls demonstrate a less demanding behavior. Dobson said that boys become eager to succeed when competing, which, in turn, can motivate them to become the best athletes they can be.

“I think with boys, sometimes they latch on to wanting to be dominant or crush their opponents,” Dobson said.

Aspects that further divide athletes is the coachability of a player and how willingly they are to take their coaches advice in order to make themselves better. Girls and boys Wrestling coach Nicholas Maffey said that girls are more guidable when being coached, resulting in an exciting wrestling environment.

“The girls are more coachable,” Maffey said. “I found that girls tend to listen more, there is no ego, and they are excited to be coached.”

Because the girls wrestling team is a relatively new program to Mason, Maffey said that he has begun his own transition of coaching by altering the training setting in order to fit the needs of all of his athletes. 

“Now we are inviting ladies into the room, it has to be a different training environment,” Maffey said.

Another aspect of coaching that a coach pays attention to is injury prevention. Because females are more prone to injuries like sprained ankles, shin splints and tears, Dobson said that he has

to shift how hard he pushes his athletes in any given season. 

“With girls you have to be a little more careful with some injuries that can pop up that aren’t as prevalent as boys,” Dobson said.

No matter what sport is being played or what gender the athlete is, the game will always be played differently, it just depends on how the coaches adapt to coaching contrasting genders. Maffey said that he wants to show not only boys but girls what hard work and dedication is through influencing and coaching them in a positive way. 

“I want to give those same experiences to the young ladies so that they can carry them beyond the classroom and beyond the wrestling mat and into their lives.”

Photo by Abby Waechter