Saturday, February 6, 2010

Coaching Girls vs. Coaching Boys

I've been coaching basketball for about seven years now, usually 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. After a recent game, a girl on my team had to wait for her brother to finish his practice, so she had free time. I spent about 30 minutes doing one-on-one drills with her. She picked up certain skills that had eluded her in the team practice very quickly. I was surprised and left wondering why I wasn't able to teach her the same skills during the team practice.

Someone else offered the following hypothesis: although every child benefits from individual attention, young girls seem to respond even better to it, because individual attention creates a bond between the coach and player. This person said that while boys enjoy competitive drills, girls tend to be more interested when working together as a team or doing activities that create relationships.

I also remember a tough game where we lost by about fifteen points (final scores at this age level are usually 40-35, 32 to 25, etc.--relatively low total points). I always make sure to tell my team that I don't care if they win or lose--I only care if they play hard and have fun. But no one wants to lose, so everyone was dejected. I complimented everyone, and I also told them to work on some specific things. Here is my point: when I complimented the boys, there was no visible emotional effect. The result was exactly the opposite with both girls--they immediately smiled. I don't know what lessons to take from that post-game experience. Perhaps I need to figure out what to say to the boys to make them happy even if they lose.

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