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The Difference in Coaching Men vs Women


After winning an Olympic Gold Medal in Beijing with the Men’s National Team, Head Volleyball Coach Hugh McCutcheon, changed over to the women’s side of the game to lead the Women’s National Team to a silver medal in London. A common question to him was, “What’s the difference between coaching men and women?”. AVCA Executive Director, Kathy DeBoer, has great material on the differences of coaching men and women. There are a number of other coaches that have made this transition from coaching the men’s to women’s game and it is becoming somewhat of a trend on the NCAA Collegiate scene for coaches to switch (see Northwestern and Wake Forest).

The irony is that many coaches started this reverse trend years ago on the high school level when boys volleyball was starting to grow and girls volleyball was in existence for many years. Many girls volleyball coaches transitioned to the boys side. I am grateful to this trend as my first three coaches were exceptionally qualified coaches that coached girls for years.

boys-volleyball-gender-differencesBut all coaches that made this transition may think they are experts on this topic, but few have the firsthand expertise that God has naturally bestowed upon me with the birth of our twins – one male, one female. I have a daily laboratory to explore gender differences. AND OH WHAT an incredibly awesome, over-stimulating, exciting, overwhelming, challenging, and absolutely wonderful laboratory it is! Full of laughter, giggles, screams, cries and the absolute wonderment of how many times do twins have to bang their heads together before they get a concussion (if they don’t have a permanent one already?!?!)!

Obviously a sample size of 1 (or 2 – depending on how you look at it) isn’t much data (especially compared to a team of 12). AND the environment in which we raise the twins certainly will cause influences and biases on this subject, but nonetheless, I am fortunate to have a unique gender view. So on their first birthday, I am able to reflect on this discussion or debate.

There are many lessons of which we have learned and the one that I choose to share today is: Don’t Compare! Lori and I make a conscious effort not to make comparisons between the two. It’s not easy to do because we naturally want to make comparisons especially ones that are so visually obvious, such as a first tooth vs a first word vs the first smile vs crawling vs the first step. It’s easy for us to think one is ahead of the other or one is lagging behind or one is not developing as fast or one is not as talented as the other, but we are learning that is not the case. The simple fact is THEY ARE DIFFERENT. Obviously, they are different because one is male and one female, but even if they were the same gender, they are still different. One would sprout a tooth first, talk first, walk first, etc.

The coach lesson I have learned from our twins is that each player is different and to not girls-volleyball-gender-differencescompare. It’s such an obvious and simple lesson, but one that is so overlooked. How often do coaches compare players, compare their physical abilities, their stats, their IQ, etc. Likewise, how often do players compare themselves with teammates, opponents, or other great players? Every player is different and has their own unique abilities that make them special, it’s how you fit their individual strengths together that makes the team. The art of coaching.

Unfortunately, comparing has become a social norm and spills into team culture. Comparing cultivates a self-centered individual mindset, self-defeating attitudes, and unattainable expectations. Coaches talk about having a team full of individuals, comparing can be a contributor to this culture.

A major influence of this spiraling team culture is social media. Social media projects unrealistic ideals and a warped sense of reality in which people too easily and readily compare themselves with what others represent themselves to be. People prefer to show their good side and their amazing life, and the viewer wonders, “Why am I not like that, doing that, traveling there, have that, etc.” It develops into an unhealthy jealousy.

As John Wooden said, “Never try to be better than someone else. Learn from others, and try to be the best you can be.”

Stop comparing.

Happy 1st Birthday Babies. Daddy is on the road, coaching, and applying life lessons you have unknowingly taught him. Love you.

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