Driven to find the answer to why girls were dropping out of sports at a rate 6 times that of boys, sports mom, Mia Wenjen, and former Boston College Head Women’s Soccer Coach and current CEO of Foley Athletic Advising, Alison Foley created their book HOW TO COACH GIRLS to help keep our girls in sports.
As their publisher, Audrey Press has had the pleasure of traveling this journey alongside these two inspiring moms. We had the chance to ask them some very powerful questions. Here are their answers and insights.
HOW TO COACH GIRLS by Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley Q&A
1) Why did you decide to write this book?
Mia: My oldest daughter had an amazing volleyball coach who was so positive that even when they lost every game in a tournament, he emphasized their improvements. The players left feeling like champions. I was walking next to him for a team dinner, and he told me that early in his coaching career, he was that coach that yelled more at the most promising player — a completely different coach than he is today. It took him a lot of trial and error to learn how to coach girls effectively.
Alison, my neighbor and friend, was always my go-to for any sports-related drama for my girls. I wanted to write this book with her because I think coaching girls is a learned skill, not an innate one. We are hoping that sharing this knowledge will ultimately help keep girls in sports.
Alison: I have had the opportunity to coach girls for the last 20-plus years, have seen things that consistently work well with girls, and have fumbled through my own mistakes of things that don’t work. I think there are a lot of capable coaches out there but they “miss” simple cues or don’t implement a small change that will have their players happier, developing faster as athletes and people and be a better teammate.
I’ve learned a lot of this by trial and plenty of error as well. If I can help coaches with a couple of “secrets” to shortcuts to team success, I will feel this book is a success.
2) The stat you quote is alarming: 70% of kids quit organized sports by age 13, with girls quitting six times the rate of boys. Why are girls quitting at such high rates?
Alison: There are a lot of options out there for kids these days, and you have to create environments that they are excited to go to. You have to blend pride, a sense of community, and success in this formula to retain your players. Understanding how our young athletes think and what makes them click is shared in our book and hopefully keeps girls excited and engaged in sports.
Mia: I’ve noticed with my girls, especially when trying out a new sport, that it can be one seemingly small thing that will either get them excited to keep going OR make them want to stop.
3) What can be done to retain girls in sports?
Mia: What we learned is that research shows that the number one reason why kids play sports is to have fun. But for girls, “fun” means being valued and respected. Interestingly, kids do not care about winning! That’s not a factor as to why kids stay in sports.
4) What are some of the ideas in your book to keep girls in sports?
Alison: a coach needs to create a safe and nurturing environment for the team. This starts with building a relationship with each player that extends beyond just an athlete but as a whole person. It’s taking the time to learn about their family, extra-curricular interests, and other aspects of their life.
Mia: Something as simple as picking Team Captains can be a way to build team chemistry or destroy it. A rotation schedule that gives each player a chance to lead also teaches the value of being a good follower.
5) Let them eat cake at games or practices?! Doesn’t that go against healthy eating as food as fuel for sports performance?
Alison: One of my assistants at Boston College, Mike LaVigne asks the day before our player’s birthday what type of cake they want for their birthday and then he brings it to the locker room the next day. To me, it’s not about the cake. It’s about the fuel of happiness.
Our players feel so special that he remembers their birthday and they love to be celebrated by their teammates at the start or end of practice. Celebrating individual milestones (a great test grade, first communion, bat mitzvahs, first goal) are all great reasons to bring in a little sugar! It does volumes for your team spirit!
So what can be done to retain girls in sports? The answers and more can be found in HOW TO COACH GIRLS. I am so proud to support my friend Mia while offering a well-written guide that helps parents and coaches understand the needs and tactics to make sports fun while cultivating WINNERS.
Other Stops on the HTCG Blog Tour:
Shelly Bean the Sports Queen-February 22
Wise Owl Factory-March 1
The Conscious Kid– March 2
Jump Into a Book-March 3
Books My Kids Read-March 4
Ms Yingling Reads-March 5
Youth Literature Reviews-March 6
All Done Monkey-March 7
Miss Panda Chinese-March 8
Biracial Bookworms-March 9
Mom of all Capes-March 10
Randomly Reading-March 12
Here Wee Read-March 13
The Pragmatic Parent-March 15