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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Anson Dorrance, June 11, 1991. Interview L-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Differences between women and men

This passage offers an interesting perspective on gender relations. Dorrance remembers that he did his best to be a good feminist in his early years as coach, treating his female players just like he did his male players, but the strategy did not work. Soon, Dorrance recalls, he realized that men and women are in fact very different. By altering his approach, and treating each of his players sensitively, he was able to cultivate both team chemistry and the "fury" necessary to win.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Anson Dorrance, June 11, 1991. Interview L-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

MARY JO FESTLE:
That's interesting. Was this the first time you'd coached females?
ANSON DORRANCE:
Yes. And it was an absolute nightmare. I think the first couple of years I was coaching the women's team, it wasn't just a question of the new players coming in displacing the old ones. It caused our problems. Or that these girls were very headstrong. I think I was part of the problem as well, because I was coaching under the early eighties assumption that women wanted to be treated like men and I followed all the dictates of the feminist literature and it was an absolute disaster. I guess in theory, at least, the avant garde theory of feminism is men and women are the same and they should be treated the same. But I've learned since that men and women are completely different and should be treated completely differently. I'm certainly in favor of equality, but to stand up and say, "We're different. We should be treated the same as a result," is absurd. And the nice thing about the athletic arena is I don't have to justify this with any sort of genetic review of you know, the brains of men and women or the social review of you know, how environment dictates behavior. My arena is winning and losing and I learned how to win with women and it wasn't by treating them as men. It was by treating them differently, by being a lot more sensitive to what you say, because they will personalize everything by developing a personal rapport with each player because that's what they were interested in in a coaching relationship. By, I guess, drawing on a very positive collective chemistry that women can have if we can get them not to personalize the competition that's occurring which is something we all bring into athletics. In fact, it's what I think we all dread about athletics. They've never been, I think, either trained or exposed to the fact that competing with someone is okay; that it shouldn't be taken personally. And to beat the absolute garbage out of someone at practice is completely acceptable. It shouldn't be taken personally and you know, we shouldn't have emotional scars as a result. I think teaching that it's okay to compete and yet still remain friends was one of the revolutionary aspects of coaching. And as a result, we've always had a tremendous collective team chemistry. And the philosophy that we have is if we have a game on Saturday, we spend Monday through Thursday just beating the crap out of each other and then on Friday, using that to play for each other. So, I guess we develop our competitive edge against each other by really trying to beat each other and develop our collective chemistry and fury by playing for each other on the last day before the game begins. So we go in there with a double edged sword. One is a tremendous cohesion to play for each other. By the same token, forged in a very competitive arena where it's okay to cut your roommate's heart out and play with that sort of fury. And I think we've basically figured out a system of trying to get the best of both worlds.