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Supporting female performance in sport and fitness
Supporting female performance in sport and fitness

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2 Do female athletes prefer certain styles of coaching?

The image shows the legs and training shoes of a person standing on a road. The road has two arrows painted on, one arrow points to the left and one arrow points to the right.

In all relationships there are decisions to be made, and how these decisions are made and who makes them will be central to a relationship’s success. There are many different styles of coaching and leadership, but two extremes would be described as autocratic and democratic and expressed in Table 1.

Table 1

Autocratic coaching style

‘My way or the highway’

Democratic coaching style

‘Let’s talk about this’

  • Coach makes decision without any input from athletes
  • Their decision is imposed on the athletes
  • The coach has a vision and expects athletes to conform to this vision and how to achieve it
  • A win-focused approach
  • Coach will seek input from their athletes before coming to a decision
  • Coach facilitates the process rather than dictating it
  • Athletes can shape their own goals and how to achieve them
  • Collaborative approach

In Activity 1 you will explore whether female and male athletes differ in the coaching style that they prefer.

Activity 1 Don’t tell me what to do!

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch the video where Dr Emma Ross from The Well HQ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] explains the coaching style generally preferred by females. Then answer the following questions:

  1. What involvement do female athletes tend to prefer to have?
  2. Does Emma attribute these preferences to differences in the male and female brain?
Download this video clip.Video player: boc_sfps_1_session8_activity1.mp4
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  1. Emma explains that research shows that female athletes prefer a democratic relationship with their coach where they co-create the coaching process. They like to explore the rationale behind coaching decisions in comparison to males who she claims, are happier to be told and follow instructions.
  2. Emma quickly dismisses the view of different male and female brains and explains differences in thoughts and behaviour are shaped by both nature (genetics and biology) and nurture (environment, upbringing, society and education).

It should be said that with regard to the psychology of sport and exercise that males and females have much more in common than differences (Roberts, Ferguson and Mosewich, 2019). However, as a coach it is important to be flexible and understand that female and male athletes perhaps appreciate and respond to different coaching styles, as this can have a significant impact on their performance.

You’ll now go back to the coach-athlete relationship and see whether there is a difference in this relationship between male and female athletes.