As a first-year high school head strength and conditioning coach, one of the biggest concerns I faced was female athlete participation.
Although many high school boys are inclined to enter the weight room simply because they want to get “swole,” teenaged girls may not necessarily be as eager. Therefore, I wanted to see how we might be able to increase female athlete participation and investment inside the weight room. With that in mind, here are a few different approaches I found to be tremendously helpful.
Having good communication and a good relationship with the head coaches of the female teams at your school is imperative. If you can sell the head coach on the importance of getting their athletes inside the weight room, then the ability to win over the team will be much easier. Head coaches see their teams more often than strength coaches do, so having a coach who believes in the value of the weight room and will stress the benefits of the program to their players can be a great way to increase participation.
Your attitude also matters. While the stereotypical strength coach may have an unavoidable macho man persona, having such an attitude 24/7 will do little to drive participation. Making the weight room welcoming instead of intimidating should be your goal. You should not patronize your athletes and make it seem like girls cannot lift like guys, but presenting the weight room as a challenge that you will help coach them through can go a long way. Having the ability to go between showing your human side and being open and able to talk with your athletes, and being someone who can be very business-like and get girls to work hard, is ideal for enhancing female participation.
Finally, having fun and making the weight room a team-oriented environment is crucial to female athlete participation. Although lifting is not necessarily fun, lifting as a team can be. By making a lift both challenging and enjoyable, participation will improve. Additionally, doing this can make it both competitive and cooperative, as teammates will both want to work with each other to improve and see who can push the most weight.
Even though teenage girls may be motivated differently than teenage boys and may not have as strong of an urge to get in the weight room, these initial reservations can be overcome. Like all athletes, getting them started is the hardest part. Then when the results start rolling in, the process can be addicting.
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