Coaching youth soccer can seem intimidating especially if it is your first time. There are so many things to think about like the difference between girls and boys teams. Well, you came to the right place and hopefully we can lift some of that burden off your shoulders.
I have come to learn there are more similarities than differences between genders. And the younger the team is the fewer differences that you will find.
Here are a few of the main differences between girls and boys coaching:
- Boys play for their own glory while girls play for each other
- Boys play for a coach they respect while girls play for a coach they can trust
- Boys motivate each other by yelling while girls motivate each other by cheering
- Boys take more risks while girls take a more calculated approach
- Boys need to learn by trial and error while girls seek to understand first
Before we go any further, let me caveat this article by saying many of these statements are generalizations. There are always exceptions to the rule. Your personal experience may vary greatly from research and my personal experience. Take this as a starting place and add your own personal touch.
As you see, youth coaching can require a few adjustments depending on who you are coaching. In order to coach your teams effectively and you want to learn more, keep reading.
Individual Versus Group
Typically, boys are more self-interested. If they have the opportunity to score, they will take it and not regret the decision. Have you ever noticed when a professional male player scores a goal? Often times, they run towards the camera, dance, and take in the moment. Some even run away from their teammates. Check out the video to get an idea!
Boys tend to claim responsibility for the good things that happen. In the worst cases, boys will focus on their individual statistics over the team’s well-being. For instance, boys will be more concerned with their playing time even if their team is winning. Their sense of identity is wrapped up in the amount of time they are on the pitch.
On the flip side, boys distance themselves from their mistakes. They point their finger to someone else before thinking it was their fault. Personal responsibility is a great tactic to teach boys. As they mature, their sense of identity will evolve as will their ability to understand their mistakes.
Girls are more concerned with the team. Girls want to be friends with their teammates. They are playing as a team and want to share experiences together. They are very in tune with one another as to each other’s feelings. Girls are more likely to pass the ball before taking a shot on goal. They don’t want to be selfish. If a teammate is struggling, they will help her better understand the task.
Furthermore, if they take a shot and miss it, this can be an embarrassing thing. Girls usually don’t want to stand out from the crowd. This leads to less risk-taking and less concern about their playing time. Scoring a goal is fun but not at the expense of someone they are friends with. They are concerned with what the rest of the team will think of them. No girl wants to be an outsider.
Coaches should strive to make an environment for girls to feel safe to take a risk without judgment. Girls should be encouraged to take open shots. If girls are in a place where you encourage all shots taken, they will embrace taking risks more.
When a mistake happens, girls think they did something wrong even if it wasn’t their fault. For instance, you mention several mistakes made to the entire team. Each player will internalize that differently, but many will beat themselves up and take the blame. While personal responsibility is important, coaches have to be careful with how they approach constructive criticism.
Connection With Teammates and Coaches
Boys want a coach that they respect and admire. Boys don’t need a strong personal relationship with their coach, although I would recommend getting to know your players. As long as the boys see a personal benefit, then he is sold on the program. Part of this is that male athletes are overly confident in their abilities. Therefore, they need to be convinced that you have the skills to get them to the next level. Young players probably won’t test you. However, as you move to more competitive leagues, this could become more apparent.
A famous example of this was the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the 1990s. It is well documented that Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman didn’t spend any time with each other outside of practice and arena. Interestingly enough, they held the same vision of winning many championships. They went on to create one of the most powerful basketball dynasties the world has ever seen. The competitiveness of men can outweigh the personal relationships needed to compete and win.
As we mentioned above, young girls use soccer as a way to connect with each other. Winning is important, but what is even more important is the connection with her teammates and coaches. Girls want to be known more as a person than as a player. Playing association football (soccer) is an excuse to build relationships. She wants to have an attachment to you as a coach. Coaches should take the time to get to know their female players on a personal level.
I’ve compiled a list of questions to ask before or during practice.
- How their day is going?
- How is everything going at school?
- How they are feeling?
- What their interests are outside of soccer?
Females need to socialize more than males. Coaches should give them the space to connect before practice or you will be battling the chit chat the entire practice. Give them 10 minutes to decompress. A lot of young players spent the entire day in the classroom. Soccer is a great outlet for them to relax and burn off some steam.
Methods of Training
You can teach boys a dribbling drill once, and they will be eager to try it. They believe that consistent and repetitive effort will them better. Boys ask factual questions about the plan. They tend to be selective listeners. They will be more willing to stumble through the practice session while trying to learn. Correct them as they make mistakes.
Girls are better listeners. Girls don’t like to have unknowns and don’t like to take guesses. They will be concerned if they have the skills to complete the drill. If they don’t they might wonder how do they develop them. When training, give examples for them to see visually and answer any questions that they might have. Be direct in your instructions and don’t leave a lot of guesswork. Giving girls a task without an explanation will lead to a lot of confusion and hesitation. Girls don’t like to look foolish in front of their coach or teammates.
Boys are naturally competitive. They have built-in aggressiveness. If you look back in history, you will see a long string of wars and efforts to dominate and conquer one another. This desire starts with young boys earlier on. One way is to create a playing situation to allow boys to express this quality such as incorporating small-sided games during practice.
One side effect is a loss will sit on a boy’s mind. They will toss and turn on ways on what went wrong and how to win the next time. It will consume their mind. Winning is meaningful for boys. Deep down men derive satisfaction with knowing they are winners. They are taught from a young age that trophies and status have meaning in our society.
It would be false to say that girls aren’t competitive. They are. Some are fierce competitors, just watch the women’s world cup. But girls can shy away from being competitive. Games and practice can lack aggression and competitiveness. Use practice and games as a way to create environments where it is okay to compete and win. Girls respond well to positive reinforcement.
After a game, girls let it go and move on. They don’t keep replaying the game over and over in their head. Because winning or the urge to be the best isn’t the number one thing. They are more interested in building their relationships with friends and family. The game is an afterthought.
Ways of Motivation
If you watch any professional sports, you will notice during pregame warmups there are men standing in a circle screaming at each other. They are pumping themselves up. Coaches are seen yelling at players. While this form of coaching is a double edge sword, it is easy to witness how men express and motivate one another. Motivational speeches and chants get boys fired up to compete.
Girls are more likely to be collective in their approach. It is a more supportive environment. Girls are less into yelling and more into cheering. Girls hug each other and pick each other up. It is a big no-no to yell at girls for motivation. They strive for the approval of their coach and peers. By yelling you hurt their ability to give them the confidence to perform in front of their teammates since they don’t want to let anyone down.