All players need the same coaching, regardless of their gender
By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – Part of coaching is learning how to reach a group of players, each with their own individual personalities. So, a coach may ask, is a player’s gender a part of that? Should males and females be coached differently?
According to Heather Mannix, USA Hockey ADM Manager of Female Hockey, the answer is no. In fact, a study presented at an International Physical Literacy Conference showed that when girls aren’t given the same instruction, there can be negative side effects in the long run.
“We need to understand that the way our culture and society treats little girls compared to little boys actually impacts their development,” Mannix said. “There is a tendency to bubble wrap our little girls while it’s socially acceptable if the boys go out and wrestle with their friends, and climb trees, or things like that. What we start to see, what the data demonstrates, is that around the ages of 5 to 6, the proficiency in movement between girls and boys — their ability to perform a movement correctly — starts to diminish. Sadly, the data shows that little girls tend to be less proficient than little boys at that point in time.
“There’s no physiological reason why that should be happening. Before puberty, girls and boys are almost exactly the same, so the result is just purely due to showing them the expectations, or really the lack of expectations, we have for them.”
Mannix noted that the result is shown in girls ages 8 or 9, with regard to their confidence — if asked, for example, how confident are you to be able to do this activity? — is becoming less than boys.
“It’s this competence, confidence, motivation, and participation cycle that is physical literacy,” Mannix said. “So, when girls don’t have the same competencies, it leads to lower confidence and their ability to move and participate, which ultimately impacts their motivation. When we start to coach girls differently than boys or train girls differently than boys, it has this kind of snowball effect. So, my thought is that whatever training and development opportunities we’re giving to boys, we need to be able to give those same things to girls.”
Mannix said at the end of the day, it really comes down to coaches knowing their players and how to instruct them. Whether they’re male or female, it doesn’t really matter. Building rapport with athletes and understanding what motivates young hockey players is extremely valuable.
“There are some girls that are motivated more by a metaphorical kick in the butt than a pat on the back, just like there are some boys that respond better to a pat on the back, than a kick in the butt,” Mannix said.
Through USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program (CEP), which requires both certification and registration to be eligible to be a coach, coaches are learning what the latest emphases are for their athletes.
“Coaching education is evolving, and practices are starting to evolve as well. As a result, with our education side of things, we’re moving away from the ‘what to coach’ and more into the ‘how to coach’ mentality,” Mannix said. “It’s interesting to see that there are certain skills that coaches should have. They should have the ability to explain, demonstrate, observe, analyze and make decisions, and how to generate and provide feedback.”
USA Hockey is emphasizing that coaches have to treat their athletes — no matter their gender — exactly the same.
“I want to believe that we’re starting to see a shift in understanding that girls are not fragile and, ‘don’t push them too hard, they might break,’ attitude” Mannix said.
Trying to relate with players and not get too upset at them is also becoming the norm for coaches.
“I think the old-school way of coaching with the yelling and screaming and throwing chairs like the Bobby Knights of the world is fading to extinction. There are many reasons why we are getting away from that kind of coaching because when it comes to actually keeping kids involved in the game and furthering their development, we know that those types of coaching behaviors, they don’t work,” Mannix said. “And at the end of the day, we want our kids to continue to play. Take me for example, I continue to play adult league and I still love playing hockey in my 30s. We want to foster that love of the game for future generations.”
Mannix stresses that it’s important for a coach to create an environment that will be fun for all the players.
“We must continue to do a better job creating an environment where they want to try hard,” Mannix said. “If they’re not giving you effort, take a look at their environment and see how you can make it a little more competitive, a little more engaging, a little bit more challenging to drive them toward success.”
Any coaches who are interested in more information on coaching girls players, USA Hockey offers a lot of resources on its website www.usahockey.com/girlshockey.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.