Courtside with Coach Edmonds: Coaching girls vs. coaching boys, are the differences real?

Keith Edmonds is a 32-year veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003.

Coaching is something that, to the casual observer, looks like an endeavor that is relatively simplistic and a lot of fun; especially when you have a very competitive team with a better than average chance to win. But let’s look a little closer.

Coaching – on any level – is a challenge that, if you’re not mentally and emotionally prepared for, can be one of the most demanding and frustrating jobs (yes jobs) that a person can undertake. 

Before I go any further, let me preface this column by saying if you’ve had the opportunity to coach boys or girls basketball, you’ll find that though there are obvious differences, the similarities are amazing and being a spokesperson for both, truly is a rewarding experience.

With the athletic abilities and understanding of playing competitive basketball that I’ve seen by the ladies growing and improving on almost a daily basis, and the advent of quality girls/boys programs in the area, I feel very comfortable saying that there are very few (if any) gaps and the skill gap is closing.

So if asked the question, “Which is or more difficult to coach, girls or boys basketball?” I would answer that they both are equally as appealing so it’s up to you to decide.

Now this is a huge switch in my mindset regarding the women’s game as I was a boys coach for over 20 years at the high school level and always thought that I’d never fully embrace the women’s game as something that was intriguing enough for me to get involved in. But, now that I’m on the women’s side of coaching, I’m seeing very little differences in my approach to each practice, trainings or game preparation. Yes, I understand that I coach very skilled young ladies at the AAU level (which I will discuss in a future Courtside article) so their advanced skills give me more fodder to speak highly of them, but even at the high school level here in northeast Indiana, we have some talented kids on both sides of this gender debate.

Coaching is coaching. Period. If you try to differentiate how you coach, then your players aren’t getting the best version of you. My approach is to celebrate having the opportunity to work with young people. They are a gift and their talents are something that should be embraced not compromised. Nor should you change who you are as a coach because you’re coaching girls or boys.

Just coach.

As you watch our area teams play, and as a true student and knowledgeable fan of the game, you’ll see that basketball is basketball and whether its girls or boys on the floor, enjoy the fact that they’re out there competing at the highest level. Their talents should never be taken for granted, because as a fan, or coach, you had some preconceived notion of how you view them. 

Enjoy the games this season with an open mind with the boys season is in full swing. Watch the games as I do with an eye on kids working hard and coaches working just as hard to keep their teams in ball games with an opportunity for success. You’ll see that the answer to the question “Are there any differences between coaching girls or coaching boys basketball?” The answer is an emphatic NO, at least from my opinion of over 30 years of coaching both. 

Let the players play, remove the stereotypes and enjoy the passion of our young people as they represent their respective schools on the court. It’s great debate, but more than that, enjoyable to watch.

Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday during the prep basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 


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