I would like to preface this post with two comments. The first is that I am a HUGE supporter of female sports; it is a major part of my life. Second is that this post is being written upon request. I was having a conversation with a client of mine about my participation with female athletics and she became fired up with my approach and suggested that I write about it…so here it is.
Men’s sports get a ton of attention in the media. They get this attention for a host of good reasons. Male athletes are explosive and athletic and even casual spectators can see that. When you watch an NBA game, you see them jumping higher than you can imagine and sprinting faster than you would think possible. When you watch the WNBA, you don’t see those feats, at least not in exactly the same form. What you see are amazingly talented athletes competing at the highest level in their sport. To some, it may not seem as overtly exciting as the NBA (the payroll and exposure certainly reflects that generalization). What some folks don’t see, however, when they watch women/girls' sports is what they are actually all about. Women/girls tend to run systems better, work better as a team, and do the small, finite things that make sports simply amazing to a purist of athletics. It takes an educated eye to see the difference between the two.
When you work with both male and female athletes, you see a big difference in how they approach sports, what they are expecting to get out of it, and what they are willing to put into it. When you coach females, you get less attitude. Less of them think that they are the “man’… so to speak. There are fewer female athletes with delusions of grandeur. There are infinitely fewer females who think that sports are their lives and that they have nothing outside of it. The number of female student-athletes who graduate and go on to be successful professionals in something other than sports reflects this.
From a coaching perspective, working with females is a unique experience. I have often said that, if you could get a high level men’s team to play together like our women's teams do, you would have instant champions. Of course, there are a lot more tears in girls' sports, but you get used to that - and, I must admit, it's often a surprisingly educational experience!
I found myself participating in female sports almost by accident. I wanted to work with a university sports team and, at the time, my only way in was by working with a women’s varsity basketball team. I distinctly remember thinking “well, at least it is still basketball” and had plans to move on to men's athletics as soon as possible. After one year of working with that team, though, I have never again had the desire to get back to working with a men’s team. This is not to say I don’t enjoy working with male athletes because I love doing that, but I much prefer working with groups of female athletes in comparison to groups of males and I have had more than ample opportunity to do both.
I was a hardcore fan of "guy" sports and I still am, but my appreciation for what female athletes are capable of has completely changed just from having exposure to them at a high level. I encourage all the doubters who are reading this to go and watch a live sporting event where high-level female athletes are competing. Don’t just watch to see how high they can jump or how fast they can run. Instead, watch with a connoisseur's eye. What you see will surprise, amaze, and educate you.