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Coaching Girls Basketball

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Often times I come into communication with both men and women who are coaching girls for the very first time. If you happen to be one of those coaches, it's likely that you are coaching your daughter, your niece or maybe even your boss's daughter - any of which just adds to the pressure of doing a good job.

Assuming you don't have the time or desire to "reinvent the wheel" let's look at what advice a couple of the most successful girl's coaches of all time have to offer. In a coaching clinic in 1997,  UCONN's Geno Auriemma said the following. "Tell them this. I don't want you to act like girls. As soon as you start acting like girls we are going to lose. If you're a guy don't be afraid to say that and if you're a woman you shouldn't have any problem saying it.

You can't treat them like girls. Treat them like young women off the court but do not treat them like girls on the court. They don't want to be treated like girls; they want to be treated like basketball players if they want to be any good. I don't coach girls differently than boys. I can't. There's only one way to make a champion. You've got to do it the right way no matter if they are boys or girls. Too many people make too many concessions because they are girls. Coach them as athletes and tell them what good athletes do, what good basketball players do."

Coach Auriemma is exactly right when it comes to X's & O's, strategy, work ethic and levels of expectation, but there is one area where the two sexes differ - how they accept praise and criticism. Most boys, when corrected on the basketball court by his coach, realize that the coach is attacking his game and not him personally. Many girls cannot separate the two and so don't make the necessary distinction. In other words, they have a tendency to take every correction or criticism personally!

They also accept praise differently as well.  Anson Dorrance, the Women's Soccer Coach at the University of North Carolina, is the most successful women's coach in the history of college team athletics. (In 2003 Sports Illustrated called UNC women's soccer "the greatest college sports program ever.") Here's what Dorrance has to say about praise. "Men love public praise. But if you praise Mary in front of her teammates every woman in the room will hate Mary with passion. Not only do they hate Mary but they hate me for not praising them. And Mary hates me for humiliating her in front of her teammates.

If you want to praise a female player, the most powerful form of praise is personal, one on one. She just wants you to feel that she is something special, and you have to figure out a way to communicate that personally. No one else has to know it."

So to summarize this very basic, short course in coaching girls - make them work hard and don't let the fact that they are girls keep them from reaching their utmost potential. Insist they are responsible and accountable and instill in them a work ethic that is second to none. But, be careful when it comes to dispensing both praise and criticism and remember that the more you praise in private the more corrections you will be able to offer as well.

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