Our UK Friend

I have a couple of recent (and not so recent) updates from our buddy John, a girls’ rugby coach in the UK. Remember he’s got that great blog for the Letchworth Girls.

It’s a tad bit late notice (sorry John), but the East Region Under-18 Girls will be touring the US in July of 2008, thanks in no small part to the hard work of this enthusiastic rugby coach. John writes:

For info England is divided into ten (I think its ten) regions, for
girls rugby purposes. East covers, in essence, East Anglia. The bit of England that sticks out into the North Sea. To anthropomorphise a bit, it Great Britain was an animal it’d be the bit it sat on. Made up of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. Check out a map.

Regions are effect of the second tier of girls rugby – the best club players play for their county, the best county players play for the region, and the best regional players go on to play for England (well, that is the idea anyway). And of the regions East is actually rather good. Top 4 finishes in the national championships for both U14 and U17 teams in the past two years, U17 champions in 2005 and U14s runners-up last year. So we are talking a Good Team here. Not national standard by any means, but rather higher than your average club.

Its kind of a big deal because its never happened before. We think. Certainly no regional team has even gone on tour – anywhere – and no English junior girls team has ever toured North America that we are aware of (other than England U19s went to Canada last year, but you could argue that U19 team aren’t juniors)

Its all possible because the age bands are changing here, so the U17 team from this season will become the U18 team next. This means that the girls will be together for the better part of two years, instead of a few months, thus allowing things like this to be planned, funded, etc.

Unfortunately it looks like nearest we’ll get to Madison is about 10,000ft as a stop over bangs up the cost something awful, so the idea is that we do Washington State and British Columbia (which are sort-of close to each other, I gather). There is some west coast inter-state tournament that we’d like to get involved with, for instance.

Anyway – suffice to say that East are coming West.

So congrats on the planning of this exciting international tour. I’m glad I could help out with a few contacts of coaches and hope it all works out well.

John also sent me an interesting e-mail discussion he’s been having with some of his fellow coaches on the difference between coaching women (girls) versus men (boys).

Blondie, what do you think of this – both as given and maybe as applies to adults as well (being as my experience of dealing with adult women rugby players is a bit limited I couldn’t really judge, though from my experience of women cricketers I think there is something in it).

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: 02-Oct-2006 23:41
Subject: Teaching girls

I was chatting to a local schoolteacher at the weekend who has workd first in a boys school (Hitchin Boys) and now works at St Francis (all girls) about the difference between teaching groups of boys and girls. Her analysis of it was interesting.

Basically she said that boys will respond best to criticism (then followed by praise), but for girls it is the other way around – you should always start with the praise and then follow up with the criticism, ie. how they can improve. It may seema minor thing, but if you get it the wrong way round she has found that boys only hear the praise and switch off before you get to the criticism (on the grounds,perhaps, that they think its “job done), whereas girls worry about the criticism to the extent that (perhaps because their confidence is hit?) never hear the subsequent praise, or fail to take it on board. She commented that it was one reason why girls do so much better in schools now – because teachers are encouraged to praise and be positive at all times, resulting in an atmosphere where boys level off while girls forge ahead.

Thinking about it I am sure she is right – and it applies equally to coaching as well as formal teaching. It is noticable how the girls at Letchworth at least have respond differently to different coaches, and I did wonder quite why – quite what the difference was. In retrospect a lot of it I think has been due to some coaches coaching the girls in the same way as they would boys, while others (either because that is their style, or because they subconciously change their style) adopt a different approach. It also would partly account for the problems girls have in mixed groups from about the age of 9-10, especially if the group is predomiently boys.

Anyway I thought I’d pass it on. Its obviously a broadbrush view, and there will be a range of exceptional people we can think of, but as I say I think there is something in it that would – if true – certainly help experienced coaches adapt if faced with working with a group of girls for the first time.

What do people think?

My take on this is that it’s all in how you word it or the emotions involved (i.e. anger vs. calmness). And obviously it depends on the age of the person receiving the praise/critique, someone older can handle critique better hopefully than someone younger.

So it’s a matter of saying something like “You’re doing great in this drill, but …” versus “You need to fix this issue or stop doing this action, but overall you’re doing great.”

I feel like sometimes our culture feels that we need to “baby” girls because they are so sensitive and boys just need to suck it up and “take it like a man”. I don’t think either of these attitudes is very helpful or realistic. And I think it’s different for each person too. They are some highly-sensitive women and men I know. And there’s also some women who can hang with the guys and prefer to have a yelling drill sargeant berate them.

Overall and since I usually only play and help coach females, I find that I do tend to stick with the “You’re doing great, but we need to work on this.” Positive and then negative. However, I find it best to be as frank and direct as positive.

If someone’s really missing the mark, they need to know that though. But they also need to be told the steps to improve it and not just be told they are messing up. I also think it helps to check in with someone later to see if the coaching helped at all or if they are still confused.

Any opinions on this?

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Filed under coaching, Letchworth Girls, Under-19s, United Kingdom

2 responses to “Our UK Friend

  1. Vincent Acheson

    Thanks for putting this up Blondie. We’ve made good progress since John’s email – we’re planning to be in the Seattle area w/e 26-27 July 2008. Any clubs or schools interested should contact vincentATgirlsrugbyDOTorgDOTuk

  2. Anonymous

    I agree that boys and girls respond differently. In high school, the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams had the same coach. He would often tell me about how diferently he coached in fall (boys) vs. spring (girls). I guess I can understand having played girls’ sports but having more of a male brain. I definitely respond better to drill sargent mode (think Leckrone) than to nice, fluffy, emotionally-sensitive criticism. I’ve seen my fellow teammates shut down when a coach yells at girls the way he would guys.

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