During my Volleyball Coaching Wizards conversations I’ve spoken with coaches who have worked with both male and female players. I always make a point of asking each of them how they approach the two genders. Is there any difference in their coaching? What’s been interesting is that many have responded that they don’t really change anything.

One of the early influences on my own coaching was Anson Dorrance. He’s the long-time women’s soccer coach at the University of North Carolina. He started off on the men’s side and for a while coached both men and women. As a result, he’s got some very interesting observations on the differences in leading the two groups. They tend to disagree with the “I treat everyone the same” idea. Check out this discussion of his on the subject (hat tip to volleyballcoaching101)

One of the things I can’t help but wonder about coaches who claim they are the same coaching male athletes and female ones is if there really are differences they just don’t recognize. I know that I am different coaching men than coaching women. It’s not an intentional thing for the most part. I don’t consciously say I’m going to have this demeanor on the court with the men and this other demeanor with the women. It just sort of happens.

Listening to Anson, the other thing I got to wondering was if coaches tend to niche themselves based on whether their personality better suits working with one gender or the other.

Along these lines, I strongly recommend the book Gender and Competition, especially if you work with female athletes. I also ranted a bit here.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

    2 replies to "Coaching leadership differences between the genders"

    • Adam

      I think Bernardo Rezende continues to be the most interesting coach when it comes to this question and would be a great interview for your project. I wonder where is place is in the discussion of greatest coaches of all time. Certainly he is in the discussion if not the greatest. But his background and the fact that he currently works with Rexona professionally, and then coaches the Brazilian men’s national team is fascinating. In my own experience at the club level I would say there is a difference. I found the game easier to teach to women. I found the trust or bonding part easier to accomplish with men. My two cents

      • John Forman

        We’re working on it Adam. 🙂

Please share your own ideas and opinions.