Key Considerations Coaching Female Athletes

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Female Athletes are fast becoming the next phenomenon, with increased pathways and progressions for females into elite training programs and teams. With that we are seeing a lot of coaches now heading into the female space. But, the question is, have you ever coached female athletes before, and what is the difference between coaching male and female athletes?

Firstly, females are NOT small men, and there are differences that we need to acknowledge.

Also, female athletes need an environment where they feel safe, and have the opportunity to develop both physically and mentally.

Coaching Female Athletes

Understanding The Basics of Female Physiology

It is really important for a female athlete to be in a sporting environment where there is openness and inclusivity when it comes to factors of being a female. PERIODS…… yep we have to be at a stage where the athlete and coach  is comfortable to have the conversation and make it normal.

Female athletes will at different times get their first period, this generally can happen anywhere as young as 9 through to 14. If a young female has not had their first period by 15 years of age. Then this is a time where we would go visit a Doctor for a check up.

Each female athlete is going to experience their menstrual cycle differently. Stomach cramps, lower back pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and heavy bleeding are just a few possible side effects. If we look at these, they are definitely a factor that could affect their performance / training as an individual athlete.

Acknowledging this can help build their performance on a foundation of their physical health but also helps build a strong coach-athlete relationship.

Feedback

Female athletes for years have not had the same opportunities as our male counterparts. Training age is a factor which can be the amount of years an athlete has been a part of a sports program, representative program and also the amount of years the athlete has been inclusive of strength training and speed work.

With more full time contracts and an increase in female participation, the opportunities are endless.

Feedback is a crucial factor when coaching a female athlete. Most athletes like to understand what they are doing wrong in training and games, and want to have the knowledge on how to improve and be better the next time they perform that skill or movement pattern.

The way we address feedback is important, and understanding how our athlete responds to feedback is critical. Some athletes may like an authoritative approach whereas others respond better to one on one feedback post training.

The willingness to want to learn and improve is very important and having a strong coaching relationship with your athlete is crucial to getting the most out of them in their performance. Goal setting sessions really help with this, through setting SMART Goals the athlete can work towards improving their performance prior during and post season.

Body Image / Social Acceptance

Females in general have faced the public eye and scrutiny for years, and in the sports world there has always been a  “this is how a female athlete should look:” undertone. The misrepresentation of all of the different body types (evident in Social Media especially) and backgrounds has made it a challenge for female athletes to accept their body type and what society expects of them.

Every athlete is different, the same as our genetics. From being really tall , average and smaller. To our BMI telling us that we are severely overweight. Remembering that we need to take into account our muscle mass and height. Some sports may require a specific weight, so the need for discussion around body image and food intake is crucial. Especially when their food intake is controlled, the importance of them getting enough nutrients to perform and be healthy needs to be considered.

Puberty is always a challenging time for young female athletes. Our bodies develop, our hips become wider, we get taller and we start to develop our hormone patterns and menstrual cycle. Some females may put on extra weight, training may increase appetite and they begin to eat more.

It can also go the opposite way and training load may affect the athlete, with fatigue, growth factors and suppress hunger. This can also relate to RED-S. Relative energy deficiency in Sport. Factors include family environment, eating habits away from training, not eating for performance, and lack of family education.

As a coach, weight considerations are always a tough topic to discuss with your athletes. It is important to be able to connect to your athletes and when having to have those discussions relate it to their performance rather than their body image.

For example instead of starting with their weight gain, analyse their performance and relate it to how well they are moving during training and games. Or testing protocols may have decreased, and start to have that conversation about what has changed and what the coach and athlete need to do to get back on track.

By having a strong relationship and understanding of the female athlete, these conversations become easier and personal experiences can also help the athlete feel more comfortable.

Want To Know More

If you would like to know more or you’re a female athlete looking for a performance coach and environment to train in, please contact our Strength & Conditioning Coach Shona O’Connell-Shea to book in a session.

How Do I Book An Appointment with Precision Athletica for Help?

We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call our bookings team to schedule a session:

Online Consultations

Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!

To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.

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