Coach Like a Girl

Moronic Little League and high school coaches have used the phrase, ‘you throw like a girl,’ for decades.

Now, the phrase, ‘you coach like a girl,’ certainly has taken on some emphasis since Natalie Randolph was named head football coach at Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C.

While many will judge Randolph according to how many games her team wins and loses, high school athletics also include other indicators of success. Randolph will only be successful if she truly coaches like a girl.

Successful female leaders conduct their business in a different way than do male leaders. Not better, not worse. Different. Natalie has to be careful not to attempt to coach like someone she’s not.

I was privileged to interview legendary University of Texas women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt for Final Four Leadership. The quintessential southern lady bristled when I asked her about the difference between female leaders and male leaders.

Conradt explained that what often happens to a female when she earns a leadership role, be it in the boardroom, the courtroom or the operating room, the female believes that she has to assimilate the mannerisms of her male counterparts. This often causes the female leader to move away from her strengths in a subconscious attempt to pacify the men in her company. This defeats the purpose of hiring the female in the first place.

Authenticity, then, is the most important characteristic to which Randolph can adhere. She needs to be the same person on the football field as she is in the classroom. She can’t treat her students one way from 8:00 – 3:00, and then pretend to be Nick Saban from 4:00 – 6:00 and on Friday nights.

People in general, and kids more astutely, can detect a phony from a mile away. If Randolph doesn’t stay true to herself, it will undermine her ability to lead those young men. Randolph’s knowledge of intricate offensive schemes and defensive deception won’t matter at all if the boys believe she’s a faker.

Having coached girls’ youth sports for 13 years, I’ve discovered that your players don’t really care how much you know unless they know how much you care.

Another intangible that Randolph needs is an awesome ‘buddy system.’ One female fault my research uncovered is that when women do achieve the corner office, they often forget to share their experiences with their female colleagues who are still working their way up the ladder.

Randolph needs successful female leaders, like Maryland basketball coach Brenda Frese, as well as successful businesswomen, lawyers, doctors, etc. to reach out and let Randolph know they’re happy to be a sounding board or an outlet to vent frustrations.

Finally, Randolph needs to assemble a strong group of assistant coaches. She needs to be comfortable with the fact that she can’t do it all and she can’t know it all. She needs to assemble a staff that compliments her strengths and fills in the gaps.

Randolph has demonstrated she’s got what it takes to get the job. She just needs her players to know that if she tells them, ‘you throw like a girl,’ that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

David F. Salter is the author of Final Four Leadership: 5 Secrets Successful Female Leaders Use and You Should Too. www.davidfsalter.com

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