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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 >>

A coaching strategy that recognizes female players' mind-sets

Dorrance describes female athletes' psychologies and his strategies for overcoming the learned behaviors he has observed in women. Unlike boys, girls do not tend to compete head-to-head, Dorrance believes, because they are more interested in relationships than they are in winning. So, Dorrance designed a coaching system that recognizes women's discomfort with crushing their opponents and their tendency to personalize competition.

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

I'm interested in how you try to institute that in practice. You mentioned the one thing: the beginning of the week, one way and then…
Well, the way we can't do it is to, I guess, constantly review what's going on. We call it keeping score. In fact, in clinics we call keeping score training the "female psychological dimension." And the way we do it is every part of every practice, everything's recorded, but it's not reviewed because I think if we recorded it and then reviewed it immediately, there would be a lot of animosities between all the players. All we do is record it, so what the girls can sense is going on every time they do anything, every time they shoot a ball is it's recorded whether or not it goes in. And if they're playing a 5-B-5 team, whether or not their team wins or loses, we record it. Anytime we do a heading duel between two players, who wins the heading duel is recorded. We play a lot of one on one competition between the girls. All that is recorded. So what they get a sense of is we encourage the winning. We talk about it all the time, but we don't expose winners and losers. And so, even though it's constantly discussed about bearing your match up, we always talk about, you know, on this one on one match up we're going to play a series of games right here and one of you is going to crack and we want you to be the one cracking the other person. Whoever loses in these duels has been psychologically buried by their opponent. And there's a tremendous sort of fear, I think, initially with women when they're put in that arena because it's a very vulnerable position to be in, basically, if you match up with someone and are beaten by them. The thing that girls fear in these sorts of confrontations is that their relationship will be affected because when they were growing up most girls don't play in these head to head confrontational games. In fact, they play turns-taking games. They play hop scotch where one girl goes and the other girl goes and jacks where one girl goes and the other girl goes. And what happens in these girls' games arenas is that then they sort of argue about "You stepped on the line." "No, I didn't." They will quit playing the game rather than resolve the issue because what they have learned and what I have learned in training women is that they have the superior understanding that relationships are more important than winning. And so rather than jeopardize their relationship, what they will do is dissolve the contest and preserve the friendship. And yet when you watch young boys play, it's just the opposite. They'll play a touch football game and the whole game is a constant raging debate as to whether or not a person was touched, whether or not he was over the line, whether or not the ball was caught, whether or not this rule was broken. And it's not like just the two leaders of the boys teams arguing over this. Every little kid that's introduced to the game has an opinion and they're arguing constantly. And what's interesting about what happens with these young boys is the game is preserved at all costs because nothing is personalized. So even though a girl or any outsider watching this game between these boys, you would think, you know, why are they playing? All they're doing is constantly bickering at each other. How can that be any fun? Well, it's because that is fun for the boys and always bickering is a part of the game itself. It's another kind of competition. It's not personalized by them. They don't take their ball and go home. They all play and go through this constant raging debate until the game is over and then you'll see two boys on opposite teams with their arms around each other walking back home or something and it was just a great, fun experience for them. And it's really difficult for women to accept those sorts of arenas because they sense that if they really try hard at something in athletics, they will be labeled a bitch for trying. Like it's not fair to be that intense. It's not fair to treat this so importantly that you're willing to kick me or injure me or embarrass me or just beat the hell out of me. It's like a personal thing. And so the challenge for us in this arena is to let them know it's okay. And let them know that's the way we should go after each other and that there's nothing wrong with it as long as you don't make an effort to… [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
… that we develop over the course of four years, is almost every freshman that comes in is incredibly intimidated by this arena. And their freshman years are almost always nightmares. Even if they're successful athletically on the field, it's an incredibly emotionally cathartic year because they're foreign to this arena and they're just not used to it. It takes them four years to really adjust to accept the fact that it's okay to bury each other and that it shouldn't jeopardize relationships, and it's going to make us stronger and more competitive and better. And so those are hard challenges in developing that quality in women.