How To Be a Better “Dad & Coach”

When your daughters become interested in softball, many dads get very excited. Most of us played sports in some capacity, whether in school or the backyard. This is something we can do together! We dig up an old glove and jump right into it with her.

It does not take long before we become confused.

She does not seem to have the same kind of passion, motivation, and enthusiasm as we do. She does not react to various challenges in familiar ways. The harder we try the worse it gets.

The good news is that there is probably nothing wrong with either of you. Sports may be the greatest illustration of the divide between genders. You must understand these differences in order to keep it fun for all concerned.

1-Body type. As you try to help your daughter learn certain skills, you must take into account the difference in the body structure. Men tend to be 60-percent upper body strength, whereas females tend to derive 60-percent of their power from the lower body. Testosterone leads to wider shoulders and narrow hips, but estrogen has the opposite effect. There are several angles in the body which are very different, including the hips and knees. Strength patterns in the shoulders also differ.

Why does this matter? As you are trying to demonstrate certain skills, you will arrive in very different ways from her. Asking her to take your path may be somewhere between inefficient and impossible. Be sure to consider differences in muscle structure as well. Guys have powerful hamstrings, whereas girls are quad dominant. The flexibility tends to be higher for females, yet, interestingly they develop a lot of issues with flexibility and mobility that inhibit their performance. The fat content in female muscles often enhance more fluid movements.

If you have never noticed these things, watch a women’s college basketball game on TV and quickly flip over to a men’s game. It becomes obvious that their dynamics are very different. Do not try to force her to do things your way. For better results, study other females who perform at high levels and help her discover their approach.

2-The effect of hormones. She is dealing with things that you did not experience. Studies have shown that there are two days a month when most injuries occur with females. There will be a day or two when she just cannot get her body to cooperate, feeling sluggish and uncoordinated. If she tries to push through it, a loss of proper form, or even injury, can easily occur.

There are also days when she will have more energy than she can effectively control. Again, the risk of injury, or loss of form, is greater on this day. Many dads do not understand these cycles and it is easy to misinterpret these days in negative ways. Let your wife or another trusted female help guide you.

3-Emotional differences. We guys like to think we know how to motivate our daughters. If you follow your own instincts, you are probably going to lose. Early in my coaching career I heard two sayings that carry some truth. The first one said, “Boys have to play well to feel good. Girls have to feel good to play well. ” If you don’t get it, take a moment.
The next one said, “Girls don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. I don’t know who originated these statements, but they illustrate huge differences in the way we view the game. One dad resisted my suggestions for better understanding and working with his daughter, saying, “Sorry, but that’s just the way I am”. I replied, “Sorry, but I mistook you for someone who cared”. If you smile when you say things like that, it often gets his attention without him taking a swing at you.

4-Etiquette. There are subtle differences in the way boys and girls play the game. If one guy runs over another, people accept that as part of the game. As a baseball catcher, I remember taunting batters in every possible way in order to distract them. If boys get beaned, they will slam the bat down and threaten to pummel the pitcher. Baseball pitchers sometimes “accidentally” hit a batter in retaliation for something. Very few girls play the game in these ways.
I didn’t say all girls are angels, but they have their own philosophy, style, and rules. Leave your testosterone at home. You are playing the ladies’ game so learn the rules.

5-Word meanings. There are certain words you want to leave at home. If you tell a girl to “pitch harder” you probably lose her. Most females interpret the word ‘hard’ by creating tension in the upper body which paralyzes the hips. Men often talk in battle terms. This is war, right? Things you would say to a boy can insult or irritate a girl very quickly. Learn the language.
And, if you are coaching a team, here is an additional point. Every kid out there is someone’s darling, little angel, sweetheart. Parents will come to their defense instantly if they don’t like the way you treat them. If you grew up around guys, played sports with guys, and always coached guys, tread lightly. You will feel you are walking on egg shells at first.

All of these things make it more challenging for us to coach girls. It is worth it! Girls are extremely coachable, they love learning different techniques, and because team chemistry is so important to them, when you develop a good situation, every practice and every game is a special event.

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t think of my former players, wonder how they are doing, and hope that I might have positively impacted their lives. They have no idea how they affected mine. It may force you to change the way you approach the game, but as a dad and someone who has coached at every level, I have learned that it may take a little extra effort to become the coach who can successfully relate to girls. The impact you can have is well worth it.