I will not suggest that all men act one way and all women act another way. I've played alongside and against women who are exceedingly competitive, adept and talented at sport; I've played with men who couldn't care less about winning, and would rather be a spectator. And while it's my belief that you can't define men or women just by their common stereotypes, I do believe that most men and women espouse genetically-caused, undeniable gender differences. One sex is not better, or worse--just different--and I feel that Kathleen DeBoer, author of Gender and Competition, feels the same.
DeBoer uses her experiences as an NCAA and professional athlete, and long-time NCAA coach as the basis for her anecdotal observations. She believes, as do I, that differences between males and females typically exceed speed and strength; that sports are an avenue for our social urges, and that the social urge of a typical male is different from that of an average female. I won't lump all males into one category and all females into another, but what most guys "get out of sport" appears to be very different from that of most girls. DeBoer believes that sport, for most guys, is an opportunity to assert their physical prowess and establish a social hierarchy. After all, we're but only a few generations removed from a time when males relied on their physical cunning to catch food, settle territorial disputes and lure "baby mama." Of course, it wasn't too long ago that women relied on a social network to raise children, find food and stay sheltered. Our genetics make us who we are.
In her decades of experiencing collegiate athletics, DeBoer has grown to find that many girls--especially in high school--are less receptive to competitiveness, victory, domination and criticism, as are their male counterparts. Even some of her most disappointing teams, from a win-loss standpoint, considered their experience to be highly successful because of the social greatness that they had encountered. She finds that girls, who may be "distracted by a male delivery, which they find belittling or abusive" (DeBoer, p.48) are easily hurt by a coach's tone and criticism. "Women have to have a sense that you care for them beyond their athletic needs" (Dorrance, p.71).
Without generalizing, I think the assertion that males and females require different things from their coaches is, to a degree, true. At the same time, the response that coaches may expect from their players probably varies, by gender. Perhaps testosterone is more receptive to intimidating coaching; perhaps estrogen prefers calm leadership and a "rally the troops," collective-effort approach.
However it may be, there's a problem in today's coaching textbooks: many of them, intentionally or not, use verbiage that demean female characteristics and propagate stereotyping. Repeatedly problematizing female athletes with terms like "issues, dealing with, and serious" (LaVoi, Becker & Maxwell 2007)--as if boys don't have problems--only perpetuates the non-normative stereotypes that surround female athletes. To increase both the quantity and quality of coaches for female sports, we need to stop disparaging the differences between male and female athletes and come to accept to accept them. Companies like Nike, and organizations like the WNBA, IOC and women's soccer need to donate resources to gender studies and women's sport, so that coach-training may become more effective and specialized.
However, I don't feel that the basis of coach-training should take an ambivalent path, where we deny the biological gender differences that dominate our biology, and instead consider boys and girls to be the same. Some of the methods that work best for girls may not motivate boys, and vice versa. If the goal of a coaching text is to teach effective coaching, it's illogical to avoid gender differences.
It seems better, to me, to alert a young coach that his or her usual style may not be ideal for the opposite sex, instead of having coaches "learn the hard way" and alienate their players. The point isn't to stop teaching the differences between coaching male and female athletes, but to employ a tactful discourse that avoids belittling one sex or the other. Statements that "imply girls are inferior, incapable, and weak" trivialize female athletics and jeopardize the quality of coaching that they may receive.
I understand that some prospective coaches will be turned-off to the challenge of coaching the opposite sex, but that may be better than employing inept coaches who are entirely ignorant to gender differences. And, while LaVoi correctly believes that "much work is needed before the gender regime in youth sport can be toppled and gender equity in youth sport can be achieved" (2009), the mostly male gender regime will hardly be receptive to a theory that men and women are emotionally alike.
DeBoer, Kathleen. Gender and competition...how men and women approach work and play differently. 2004.
Lavoi. Occupational sex segregation in a youth soccer organization: females in positions of power. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal. 18(2), 25-37. 2009.
LaVoi, Becker and Maxwell. 'Coaching girls': a content analysis of best-selling popular press coaching books. 2007.