No crying in baseball

March 11, 2002, midnight | By Liam Bowen | 18 years, 10 months ago

Coaching high schoolers along gender lines

We live in an age that has seen women's sports make incredible progress. With the help of Title IX, the landmark 1972 legislation that bans sex discrimination in schools, whether it be in academics or athletics, gender equity has become the norm. Women's sports are more similar to their male counterparts than they ever have been.

As much as this is true, there are still distinctions between men's and women's sports, especially in the way the coaches interact with the athletes. At the college and professional level, coaches usually coach only one gender. At the high school level, however, it is common for coaches to cross over. Blair has several such coaches and they offer an interesting and informed perspective on the gender differences.

Those coaches say that girls and boys certainly have a different perspective on the games they play. The girls tend to be less focused on winning and losing than boys, concentrating on other aspects of sports instead. "The day before a game, the girls always talk about what they are going to wear to school so they can be spirited. The boys talk about the team that they are playing. They seem more focused on the game," says Jamie Franck, the varsity girls' volleyball coach and the junior varsity baseball coach.

Like Franck, Louis Hoelman coaches both boys and girls, serving as the varsity softball coach and the junior varsity boys' basketball coach. He agrees that results do not drive female athletes as much as males. "Guys are motivated by winning and losing. Girls, while they care about the game, are more concerned with how they performed," says Hoelman, adding that girls tend to get over losses more quickly than boys do.

This does not mean that high school female athletes are any less serious about sports than the boys are. Female athletes have made huge strides over the past generation in terms of dedication. "Girl athletes today are training just as hard as the boys. It wasn't like that ten years ago; the girls are catching up," says Franck.

Perhaps the greatest adjustment a coach has to make going from boys to girls is altering the way he motivates his team. Pitting players against each other in competition for playing time is a useful tactic with boys, but girls often do not respond to these methods.

Hoelman learned this in his first year coaching softball. "I sat them down at the beginning of tryouts and I told them that everyone was competing for the same jobs. I stressed that it was a competitive situation and that everyone should be playing hard," he says. "I hit the first grounder in infield practice and it went right through the girl's legs. Four girls ran over to her and tried to cheer her up. That's when I knew that things were going to be different with girls."

Conventional wisdom dictates that girls are the gentler sex, but both Franck and Hoelman maintain that they treat their male and female athletes the same way. They get angry at the same things, regardless of the player's gender. Franck does admit, however, that this is open to interpretation. "If my baseball players came to one of my volleyball practices, they would think that I was going kind of easy on the girls. They would say, ‘If I did that at baseball practice, Coach would yell at me,'" he says.

Boys and girls also treat the emotional aspects of sports very differently. According to Hoelman, boys are more emotional in games but less so at other times. The girls he coaches seem to be more comfortable talking to him. "During a contest, boys will wear their hearts on their sleeves. They play with more emotion than the girls do," Hoelman says. "But when it comes to expressing their feelings to me, the girls are more open and mature. Guys feel like they have to act cool, and it's not cool to be too friendly with the coach."

When it comes to sports, differences between the genders abound. Male and female athletes are motivated differently, view the game differently and respond to competition differently. In spite of all of this, however, Franck sees one great similarity that seems to transcend the sexes. "They both seem to enjoy mocking me like crazy," he smiles.

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Liam Bowen. Liam Bowen has loved sports, baseball in particular, since he saw Jeff Ballard pitch for the Orioles in the late-80s. When he isn't on the beat, Bowen ties up his daytimes with his misguided and entirely unrealistic dream to play some sort of advanced baseball … More »

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