How Coaching Female Athletes Can Be Fun And Inspiring article, wikimedia photo

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The 3 R’s Of Coaching Female Athletes article, wikimedia photo article, wikimedia photo

Please join me for a fun series. My mission, and I’ve chosen to accept it, is to write a post based on each letter of the alphabet. The English major inside of me is very excited about this project…and my inner nerd is even more fired up! Keep checking back as I tackle the intangibles of sport…from A to Z.

Coaching female athletes is fun, inspiring, challenging, and motivating. Though there are many, many similarities between coaching men and women…there are some differences. Knowing, acknowledging, and acting on those differences can be the difference between a satisfying or miserable season.

3 things coaches must have to coach female athletes

Raison d’etre. This is a French phrase that means “the purpose that justifies a thing’s existence.” So what is the raison d’etre for the female team? Of course, the most obvious purpose for any team is to experience success and win games. The next purpose, regardless of gender, is that our goals can’t be accomplished alone…we need teammates. The difference with female athletes is the motivation required to bring our teams to a place of success. Changing the player’s perceptions of competition, accepting different personality types, and having common language for success are some of the necessary steps to creating raison d’etre.[adToAppearHere]

Raconteur. This is another French word (I was a French minor in college) that I love, because I enjoy telling stories. A raconteur is a person who tells tales in a skillful and amusing way. Not to toot my own horn (but toot! toot!), but I can tell a mean story. I remember a time when my team was winning games, but not in the dominating fashion that we should. I gathered the team around and told them about my childhood love of the video game Mortal Combat. And how when you’d beaten your opponent, you had two choices. You could merely hit him and advance to the next level or, knowing a special code, you could reach inside your opponent’s chest and literally rip his beating heart right out. I’m sure you can imagine that the next team we faced got crushed. Moral of the story: it’s okay for women to be tough and uncompromising in our pursuit of victory.[adToAppearHere]

Raise the bar. I’ve got a long list of pet peeves, but pretty high on the list is the shoulder shrug and helpless look some coaches have when they talk about coaching females. Like, “women…what are ya gonna do?”. It drives me crazy, because it makes poor behavior from female athletes okay. Gossiping, not talking to teammates, treating teammates poorly…that’s all poor behavior that needs to be modified by the coach. It’s not behavior that’s inherent to female teams, but if a coach believes that it is then they’ll let correctable actions go uncorrected. The team will rise to the expectation level of the coach. If we expect more, we’ll get more.

I enjoy coaching female athletes…and I want everyone to feel the same! I believe if we stick with it, we’ll find the key to open up success for our teams.

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Dawn Redd is the Head Volleyball Coach at Beloit College. Come visit Coach Dawn’s community of coaching nerds and team leaders over at her blog,, where she teaches how to become an excellent coach, motivate individuals, and build successful teams.

Her book, Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes, is available for purchase on her website.

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Sources:, Wikipedia,, FCI Elite Competitor, photos thank you Wikimedia Commons.