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Girls vs. Boys: 'It's about how the individual ticks' (Part 2)
by Mike Woitalla, January 2nd, 2013 5:56PM
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TAGS:  youth boys, youth girls

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Interview by Mike Woitalla

Considering different approaches to teaching based on the students' gender has become a hot topic in the educational world, so we’ve been asking experienced American coaches if it’s also an issue to consider in youth soccer. In Part 2 of our series we speak with Minnesota coach Julie Eibensteiner, who has coached both genders at the youth and college level for more than a decade. She's currently the goalkeeping coach at Woodbury SC and head coach of U14 & U16 teams. She’s been a Region 2 ODP staff coach for both boys and girls.

SOCCER AMERICA: What should coaches keep in mind if they move from coaching one gender to another?

JULIE EIBENSTEINER: I coach both genders -- field players and goalkeepers -- and I coach them as soccer players and not so much by if they are male and female. I think you need to look at how the individual ticks and not just group them in one heading by gender ... and you can only effectively do that by getting to know the player.

At the end of the day, it's pretty to safe to say that the majority of players seek personal development, a positive environment, a confidence-building experience, and fun (however they define that).

Other than that, you need to get to know the player and their motivation, learning, and feedback preference ... and I am not convinced that is gender-specific especially as you get to the higher competitive levels.

SA: Are there unique challenges to coaching girls vs. coaching boys?

JULIE EIBENSTEINER: Generally, girls tend to be a little more hesitant with feeling confident and competent with how they are doing more so than boys, at first.

Boys probably overestimate their ability a little bit more so you need to find the middle ground with both and there certainly are exceptions.

Early in their careers, boys tend to be more outwardly competitive where girls tend to want to look out for the greater group and be a bit more cooperative ... again you just need to find the middle ground because both aspects are good.

SA: Are there coaching styles that work better with one or the other?

JULIE EIBENSTEINER: I have found that with no matter what age and what gender you coach, the best coaching style is one that demonstrates you are genuinely interested in their development, genuinely interested in them as a person.

To effectively explain the whys behind the whats … a coaching style that keeps the expectations of the coach consistent with the expectations of the player.

Read Part 1 of our Girls vs. Boys series HERE.



5 comments
  1. Paul Harbin
    commented on: January 2, 2013 at 9:14 p.m.
    Well said Julie.
  1. Paul Stewart
    commented on: January 2, 2013 at 9:20 p.m.
    This response is disappointing, because there are now some well-recognized differences in genders. For example, when something goes wrong, girls tend to blame themselves, whereas boys point fingers. Girls need more time for socialization to function well as a team - boys are generally ready just to show up and play (paraphrasing Anson Dorrance). Boys usually retaliate immediately - a girls' fracas often occurs seemingly out of the blue based on something that happened an hour before. There's an increasing amount of information like this available with a google search, and I encourage coaches to pay attention to this issue.
  1. Kichele Kay
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 1:37 a.m.
    I agree Paul Stewart. This article was very superficial and didn't touch on the significant differences between genders in how they view themselves as players individually as well as related to the social dynamics of the team; especially U14 and older. Coaches need to be prepared to meet the needs of the different genders and should be aware of many of the more significant differences and challenges that were not touched on in this article.
  1. Ron R
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 12:05 p.m.
    I've coached boys and girls at all ages and there are differences to be sure but I agree with Coach Eibensteiner's overall advice to be involved personally and understand the individual motivation. I've coached girls who play like the boys you describe in your comments and boys who play for the team first and get their motivation from a contribution rather than a starring role. If you take her advice and a boy plays like a stereotypical boy, you'll know that by getting to know him and if he plays more for the team, you'll know that too. Making an assumption on player motivation is a mistake you shouldn't make. If you coach for the development as individuals and play them to their strengths, you'll have great success on the field... and off.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: January 3, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
    I think the general thrust of Eibensteiner's approach, that good coaching is based on looking at players as individuals and tuning your approach based on what works is more important than adopting a different approach based on gender. But I would guess that Eibensteiner varies her approach a bit based on whether she's coaching boys or girls, and may not even be conscious of it. I think where the different approach is most important is at the team level, rather than the level of the individual. Social interactions often create a different dynamic for a girls team than a boys team. I think when the players are very young and when they are older (U18 & up), the differences are not that great. But from 14-18, especially with the less skillful teams, the differences in discipline, things that upset team cohesion, team goals, etc., can be more pronounced.

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