Although men are predominant in commanding from the sideline, women are advancing in the coaching world as well.
According to a national 2012 study by Vivian Acosta and Linda Carpenter, two former physical education professors at Brooklyn College, men coach 57 percent of female teams, and women coach 43 percent. Female coaches head only 2 to 3 percent of male teams.
It raises the question: is there a difference in coaching styles?
“When we are preparing for a competition, we go through the same mental, physical preparation,” said LaTanya Sheffield, assistant coach for sprints, hurdles and relays of the track and field team at Long Beach State.
Sheffield said that she has no strategy for either gender as far as coaching methods because she does not think they should be approached differently.
“They want to compete at a high level,” Sheffield said. “The intensity is just as equal.”
Sheffield said the first thing she noticed in her male and female athletes is that they love to compete.
Jeff Joyner, associate head coach of the women’s soccer team at LBSU has worked with men’s soccer as well. His career has revolved around women’s soccer for nearly 15 years.
“A male can take the comment, find the information and make the correction,” Joyner said. “Girls take the comment and find the information, but also tie something to it emotionally.”
Based on his observations, his style has not changed completely, but has made him sensitive to situations when a female player may take critiques more personal.
Dustin Thoman, a psychology professor at CSULB, said that the best way to combat any possible misunderstandings between a coach and an athlete is to have two-way communication.
“It is possible that the female athletes interpret feedback differently,” Thoman said. “But also for the coach to let them know what he does and what he doesn’t mean.”
Thoman said that from an early stage, children are talked to differently and engage in various styles of play that bleed into their overall social growth.
“Growing up with different communication styles might lead [boys and girls] to interpret the same message differently,” Thoman said.
Communication is crucial as it may not only lead to mixed messages, but also a break or build the athlete’s confidence.
The book “Self-Efficacy in Sport” by Deborah L. Feltz, a kinesiology professor at Michigan State University, focuses on research regarding efficacy in sports, stating that the strongest dimensions of coaching efficacy deals with motivation and character-building.
Sheffield focuses on the athlete’s capabilities and placing goals regardless of gender. She said that the way they are spoken to lets them know one believes in them.
“They stand on the lanes by themselves,” Sheffield said. “But they know I’m on the stands supporting them and I believe in what they’re doing.”
As great as coaching for the sport one loves is, coaching the opposite gender also has its rewards.
Joyner said that he feels he has more of an impact on the girls he has coached compared to just playing on a team.
He said that boys watch soccer and try to emulate their heroes while girls do not have as many athletic idols to look up to, so girls naturally refer to themselves whenever they accomplish something great.
“When you see it, it’s like I helped them,” Joyner said. “I helped them get to that moment in the game.”
Joyner said that there is not much opportunity for women’s soccer beyond college, hinting at the larger issue with gender and its limitations in athletics.
“There are professional teams and there are contracts out there,” Joyner said. “But there’s nowhere near as many opportunities [for women] as there are for men.”
Sheffield said that when she participated in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, women were not seen in the same light as a man.
“It was felt that we should not exert ourselves because we were too fragile,” Sheffield said.
Although the perception of women in sports may have shifted to an extent, the stigma is still there. Sheffield’s example was how female sports are not given as much airtime as male sports.
“[Women] can stand on an Olympic podium or any arena and be as competitive,” Sheffield said.