In the book, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus’, John Gray emphasized the importance of the differences in communication style and emotional needs of men and women. John Medina in “Brain Rules” indicates there are structural and biochemical differences between the brains of men and women that contribute to differences in emotional responses, communication, and the development of relationships. In addition to the natural differences, on-going research documents the influence that the environment has on men’s and women’s self-perception and perception of the other gender. Whether it is nature or nurture, and likely both, we must acknowledge there are differences. There is nothing wrong with these differences, it is just that they are different and they influence our abilities to communicate.
I am glad that I have accepted the reality that there are inherent challenges in communicating with and understanding what motivates female athletes. I have learned that first and foremost, I am coaching an athlete and not the gender in the context of the skills, knowledge of the game, mental abilities, and fitness, among others. I have learned to be cognizant of my female athlete’s feelings and how important it is to develop relationships with them. One mistake I have seen some male coaches make, which is emphasized as a huge mistake in the literature, is trying to motivate females with the intensity of their own personalities.
As males we have all experienced aggressive, loud, in-your-face motivational exhortations from our coaches and/or constant yelling. Although this approach is not advocated for either male or female athletes, male athletes will respond better to this type of motivational strategy. Unfortunately, this approach is generally counterproductive when it comes to female athletes. Because female athletes are more relationship-oriented, this motivational approach may be interpreted as a personal attack. The female athlete will feel that their relationship with the coach has been affected by their play on the field. This feeling eventually evolves into the female athlete developing a personal distance between themselves and their coach. If this situation is not remedied, I have seen a coach’s ability to lead some female athletes reduced. There are many details that can be discussed regarding gender differences and it may seem rather obvious, but think about your personal relationships with your significant other or your children, and the communication challenges that you may have. Now take that into a coaching, education, or the business environment where you do not have the same level of strength in your relationship. Your sensitivity to these differences will impact your ability to create relationships and an environment where communication can flourish.