Monday, February 2, 2009

Coaching Girls vs. Boys, Round 2

It’s time for more anecdotal evidence that girls and boys are different, especially when it comes to coaching a swim team.

Observation #1: Nicknames. If girls on a swim team give each other nicknames, they’re going to be cute permutations of the girls’ given names. "Hope" becomes "Hopi," "Ashley" becomes "Sassily," and "Kim" becomes "Kimba." When boys give each other nicknames, the names are going to be a reflection of a boy’s physical, mental or moral shortcomings.

There have been several standouts from all my years of swim-coach spousing. There was "Cakes," a name which had some murky connection to the guy’s hindquarters. Then there was "Weest" which is short for the French word "Egoiste" which came from a TV commercial popular at the time for a men’s cologne where a bunch of angry women are yelling "Egoiste!" out their apartment-building windows at a departing guy who apparently is a cad. This swimmer wasn’t so much a cad as he was just a very driven individual who would gripe at anyone who wasn’t training as hard as he thought they should – and that included senior citizens and small children.

My favorite nickname, though, has been "Crow" which is short for "Scarecrow" which came from the Wizard of Oz character who said, "If I only had a brain." But the truly scary thing is that all of the gentlemen upon whom these nicknames were bestowed will still answer to those nicknames when you see them at alumni events.

Observation #2: Displays of Team Spirit. If you need it committed to posterboard, then you’re going to need a girl. If you need it in day-glo colors and embellished with glitter glue, you are definitely going to need a girl. What you will get with boys, when it comes to displays of team spirit, are things that can only be shaved off or measured in decibels. That’s because boys stopped making posters of any kind somewhere around the fifth grade. They also don’t make adorable name-tags in the shape of dolphins or flip-flops for hotel-room doors and lockers. And if boys create any kind of a "Countdown to Conference" display, it’s going to be on a dry-erase board and its subject matter will be R- if not NC-17-rated.

Observation #3: The Details. Boys often show a blithe disregard for the details of daily living – like "eat more protein than sugar," "speed limits are not optional," and "if you don’t stop touching it, it will get infected." But when it comes to obsessing over details in the pool, boys are more apt to do this than girls. A girl might cry if you give her a set of 384 50s, IM order, but she’ll do it. A boy will do it but then he’s going to want to compare his splits from this time to the last time he did the set. A girl might look at another team’s roster just to see if there’s anybody she knows from high school or club swimming. A boy will have pulled up the roster, Googled all the names on it, downloaded his opponents’ times from wherever he can find meet results, and then prepared recommendations for a dual-meet line-up.

And Observation #4: Gift Giving. If girls are in charge of picking out a season-end gift for a coach, it will be something thoughtful like a gift certificate to a restaurant and they’ll include free babysitting. If boys are in charge, it’s going to be a homemade calendar with team pictures like the one above.

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