AUGUSTA — On the playing field, girls want to stand out without standing out.

A team dynamic is based on a web of relationships, not a hierarchy of talent.

And motivating them actually can work by way of some good old-fashioned guilt.

These are just some of the subtle differences coaches must adapt to when coaching girls, according to Kathy DeBoer, the keynote speaker at the 12th annual Mentoring Women in Sports conference hosted Friday by the Maine Principals’ Association.

DeBoer spoke to 68 coaches and educators from around Maine. She has been a college volleyball coach and administrator in Kentucky, and is the author of “Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently.”

“How do you motivate a man? You challenge his manliness. You go right to his core. Prove it,” said DeBoer.

“How do you motivate a woman? With good old-fashioned guilt. ‘You’re not doing your part for the team.’ “

DeBoer shared examples of motivation used by Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summit, some from her own coaching days, and others, even from Anson Dorrance, the head coach of the storied North Carolina women’s soccer team.

She opened with a story about a lesson she learned coaching volleyball at Kentucky.

The team had won 50 or more matches but fell to Penn State 2-0 on the road in a game she believed her women just didn’t try hard enough in.

“What really bothered me, what got under my skin, was that my team didn’t seem terribly interested,” said DeBoer. “We were losing strings of points. There wasn’t intensity. They weren’t getting in each other’s face. They seemed not to care.”

DeBoer and the team loaded into the team van. As they crossed the Ohio River, DeBoer snapped. She ordered her assistant to throw the second-place trophy into the river. The assistant complied.

DeBoer used the moment to show her team how she felt about second place, the effort she believed was pitiful.

The next day on campus she was questioned by a police chief. He told her a boat passing by was struck by a strange object. They looked up and saw a van with a Kentucky emblem.

DeBoer was horrified she may have hurt someone. But he later closed his notebook.

“The good news is there’s no boat,” he told her. “No one got hurt. The bad news is your team sent me over here. They wanted that trophy.”

After her remarks the group split off to hear two panels.

One included members of the media to discuss how different genders react to coverage.

The panel included Portland Press Herald writers Mike Lowe and Jenn Menendez, Matt DiFilippo of the Kennebec Journal, Mike Hoffer of the Falmouth Forecaster and Ernie Clark of the Bangor Daily News.

A second panel included game officials, including Tracie Martin, Jeff Jewett and Robin Jewett.

“Kathy did a really good job showing the differences,” said Beth Murphy, longtime Westbrook field hockey coach. “With age you learn. Each group is different when it comes to motivating kids and you have to learn to adapt. To motivate girls, it’s not good to yell in their face.”

Michelle Fowler, who coaches girls’ and boys’ track and field at Waterville, sees the subtle differences on a daily basis.

“Boys are a lot more competitive in practice,” she said. “The girls will work hard. But they don’t necessarily want to show up their friends.”


NOTES: Four women were awarded Unsung Heroines in Maine Sports: Wells High cheering coach Sybil Coombs, Yarmouth Athletic Director Susan Robbins, Old Town field hockey coach Dorothy Saucier and Dexter field hockey coach Margaret Veazie.


Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]


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