One of the grandfathers of sport psychology, Dr. Bruce Ogilvie (1997), researched young female runners. What he observed was striking. The teen female cross country runners responded best to coaches with a “relationship focus.” The “relationship” oriented coaches worked hard on developing positive one-on-one relationships with the girls and strong camaraderie. The girls reported feeling personally cared about, since their coaches knew both sport and personal highlight of each girl. This approach was the key building block for having successful teams and outcomes for the female teen sports teams studied. Ken Grace, whose cross country teams I worked with at City College of San Francisco for several years, currently coaches younger athletes at Chabot Community College in Hayward, CA. He sums up coaching young female athletes in the following ways:
- Girls listen and boys challenge when it comes to coaching and teaching a new concept.
- Girls generally under-rate their athletic ability and ability to be competitive.
- It is easier to create a team atmosphere with a group of young women who tend to be more peer-based in their groups.
- It is extremely important, especially girls, that the coach focuses on the positive aspects of each workout.
As a sports psychologist, I’ve found teaching young women and teens the basic mental skills of sports helps provide them with a basic foundation of discipline, focus, strength, and commitment. Team sports can especially give them a sense of group camaraderie.