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Establishing leadership | Inclusive Coaching

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Posted in: Coaching Women

Establishing leadership

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  • Coach_Browning

    My previous background has been in the men's side of things, with a single instance of a woman coming into the team, and I have now moved to a female only team for the first time.

    One difference I am experiencing is around the establishment of leadership within the team. Something which, I will admit, I had not given so much thought to with regards to its establishment (also due to the fact that I was part of a wider coaching team rather than being the sole coach of the team that I am now)

    In the men's game, I had players that, each year, naturally came to the fore in a leadership role. Maybe I was lucky? But either way, it just seemed that within the group there was a natural heirarchy that formed, and certain players did naturally assume - for want of a better phrase - the alpha-male role.

    In the women's team that I have now, it is a new team and all the players are new to the sport, which is likely a contributing factor in itself,  and I am not seeing this same type of development. 

    While I expected them to look to me for leadership in the early stages, I guess I also expected a player or two to begin to emerge as a leader within the team. We have been going 5 months now and I havent really seen this start to happen yet. Each time I think it will happen, they seem to then retract back into the group.

    So here come the questions! laughing

    1) What are other coaches experiences of female teams with respect to the establishment of player leadership?

    2) Am I being too quick in expecting to see this development? Do female players need longer for this to emerge?

    3) Will it even happen? Am I incorrect to think that what I experienced in this way with the mens team will happen with a female team? I doubt it as I have seen some very clear leaders within other teams in the women's game but is that just those particular individuals?

    4) Asuming that it can/should/will/etc...happen, what things can I do to facilitiate it - or should I just let it happen?

  • dancottrell1


    I think you rightly identify that some of the issues may come from the team dynamic in the first place.

    My experience of coaching school teams (therefore having a fresh group each year) is that in some years, there's no leader or a weak group of leaders, while in other years, you are blessed. 

    Therefore, in that sense, you need to develop leaders within the group and that, again as you identify, takes time. I sense that's a question for a leadership blog post and not for this one.

    Is this problem specific to female teams? In my experience, it's very much an environmental/cultural issue. Many boys grow up playing lots of sports and find themselves in many team sports environments. Girls are playing catch up in this sense, so while more and more girls are enjoying organised team sport than they once did, there's less exposure to team environments.

    That means your team might be their first proper experience and might take time for them to adjust. But, as many tech companies will attest to, put a bunch of "nerds" in a room to develop a team-related outcome, and it will be a tough ask because these whizz-kids haven't ventured away from their screens for a number of years! It's not a "female" thing, it's a life experience thing.

    So, to summarise a possible approach to answer your second and fourth questions:

    > Create a leadership group of "senior players".

    > Share with them your vision while understanding, empathetically, their vision too.

    > Create a shared vision.

    > Ask them how you, as a group, can go forward with that vision.

    > Offer responsibility, don't impose it.

    > The best teams have many leaders, each looking after a different aspect of the team's direction. 

    > And, finally, if you need a "captain" and no-one emerges, share it around every game. 

  • HeadcoachPRUFC

    Coaching women ....is it different to coaching men? My experience is that there are different styles of coaching that work better with women. Consultation and concensus around decision making works better. When you introduce new concepts or different ways of doing things women demand a clear explanation of why it will be better and to be involved in the decision making process. 

    How this impacts on leadership is a different dynamic to coaching men's teams. 

    Dont wait wait for your athletes to act like other athletes you have coached adjust your coaching style to suit your current athletes. This is your challenge not theirs. Being athlete centred is driven by what works and improves performance. I'm not sure about the science of different learning styles and gender differences ..... This is from my experience and may be different in different sports I have only coached women in one sport 

  • CatherineBaker

    Connected coaches at its best sharing thoughts and knowhow like this! Lots of useful advice given already, I will only add the following. Often (though I appreciate not always) it's a confidence issue with women and girls. This has worked for me in the past: explain what you are looking for in terms of responsibility and leadership and why it's important to the outcome(s) you are all aiming to achieve; tell the group that you know they can deliver on this; ask them to think about their own strengths and those within the team; and then as a group come up with a plan for roles and responsibilities accordingly. 

    Good luck. 

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