This article was provided by Coaches Network
Many of the keys to coaching are universal, but when it comes to coaching athletes of the opposite gender there are some extra considerations to keep in mind. Whether you’re a male coaching females, or a female coaching males, it’s important to be aware of respecting boundaries and understanding what is appropriate behavior. To make this easier, Dr. Cheri Toledo has provided some guidelines to follow in an article on Purpose2Play.com.
As a Certified Elite Life Coach with more than 15 years of coaching experience at the college and high school levels, Toledo has seen how coaching athletes of the opposite gender can provide some unique challenges. Much of this comes down to understanding how to effectively communicate with different athletes. And this can require some reading, research, and experience. One source that Toledo found particularly useful was the book You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen.
“[Tannen] found that boys focused their communication on independence, self-reliance and the avoidance of failure, while girls focused on connection, preserving intimacy, and avoiding isolation,” writes Toledo. “In addition, boys were most interested in sharing content, while girls were concerned with the interaction itself.”
This means that the way you communicate with your athletes is key. According to Toledo, female athletes generally respond better when you avoid yelling and ask them for their input, whereas male athletes often respond to motivational yelling or concise demands from a coach. While the content of what you say may be very similar, the way you deliver the message can make all the difference.
Practice habits may also differ. According to Toledo, research has shown that female athletes are often under-confident while males can sometimes be overconfident. Having enough confidence is crucial to performing at a high level, so in order to help female athletes overcome this hurdle work on improving their confidence during practice. In order to do this, try making practices more intense and reward players based on their effort and performance.
Toledo also lists some dos and don’ts in order to make sure you maintain an appropriate relationship with your athletes of another gender.
-Avoid one-on-one situations: To keep a player from feeling uncomfortable or getting the wrong impression, always have a third party present. If you are meeting in your office, have another coach there and keep your door open, but preferably meet in an open area. Also, never have a player stay over at your house or in your hotel room, and avoid driving a player home alone. Even though these things might be completely innocent, you don’t want to give the wrong impression.
-Be transparent: Communications with your athletes should be public, not private. Emails and text messages should be group conversations, not one-on-one. And when a player approaches you with personal information, it’s important that you still share this with either their parents, your assistant coaches, the athletic director, or a counselor at the school.
-All touching must be appropriate: A pat on the butt might be okay if you’re the same gender, but when you’re coaching athletes of another gender stick to a pat on the shoulder or upper back. Hugging can be a great way to show your athletes you care about them, but opt for a side hug rather than a front hug so that you don’t make anybody feel uncomfortable. In general, it’s better to use your voice than your hands.
“Coaches are in a power position – they need to avoid using that power to gain any inappropriate control over their players,” writes Toledo. “Remember, people’s perceptions will always override the facts.”
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