Women Coaching Women – The Message and Methodology


I want to discuss some of the highlights of the 2008 Motor City Strength and Conditioning Clinic held last summer, 2008, at the University of Detroit, UD Mercy Campus – Callahan Hall. The profile of attendance this year included many more female university, high school, YMCA and commercial enterprise coaches, athletes, and trainers.

Many of the speakers are women in coaching and athletics.

Other speakers offered valuable experiences and a considerable body of new information as a whole. We’ll focus on issues dealing with women and weights. What is of particular interest in training women over 30, over 50, and what may soon be of particular interest to active large and tall women, women size 14W and up.

Mike Barwis, director of Strength Conditioning at the University of Michigan Summer Conditioning for Football, offers this observation:
“We emulate our surroundings. We decide to put ourselves in a life that is what we want to be.”

Keynote speakers on Training the Female Athlete Physically and Psychologically include Jennifer M. Query, MA, CSCS, the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Women’s Basketball, and Men’sHockey, at Western Michigan University.

Common stereotypes of female athletes are discussed: with regard to body image, it’s social conflicts with “Hollywood Status,” the fear of weight gain, femininity, and what really defines it. The bias and stereotypes influence the mental make up of a female athlete. The stereotypes, says Ms. Query, need to be addressed “up front.” Coping with negative stereotypes starts with proper education about achieving an athletic, muscular body and, dispelling self-doubts over the question: “Can an athlete still be feminine?”

A helpful hint from Jen Query to those who may coach female athletes or women wanting to lift weights is, “…get them to know their body and how it’s going to help them. It’s about how you relate the message.”

Query adds, “You have to provide consistency, both in the message, and how you train them!” How-to issues: such as bodyweight control, lifting technique, program design, and establishing real, achievable goals within a certain time-frame. She suggests, will outweigh what she calls, the “Guy-Look Conundrum,” and foster a “model of mental toughness for females.”

In that model of female mental toughness, Coach Jen Query discusses “the ability to deal with stress (and) adversity, without letting performance suffer.” This is fashioned from perseverance, a positive outlook, with “Positive Comparisons,” and a commitment to a goal with attention to specific tasks that are made very familiar.

A motivation for “Personal Bests” is best served when you Simple Endurance Coaching provide a consistent approach with minimal stress factors: Emphasis on “Mutual Coaching,” women training women, gradually engaging in more aggressive training approaches, are important ways to “build off of adversity.” Coach Jen Query notes, “Females may be ‘shy’ about mutual coaching and aggressive approaches,” at least initially.

Consistency in the methods, familiarity with the tasks, and growing value in them, create the greater sense of Self-Efficacy, and what WMU Strength Conditioning Coach Jennifer Query suggests is a better defined, better motivated idea of “Future Potential” and “Mental Self-Concept.”

She heartedly suggests, “Coaching should produce no grudges after sessions. Issues should be resolved in context: critique only in context of the activity.” Show how something can be corrected, at the time.

That’s some of the motivational aspects of training female athletes covered.

How does WMU Strength Coach Jennifer Query answer the physical training aspects?

At the Motor City Strength and Conditioning forum held at the University of Detroit-Mercy Campus early June, 2008, Coach Jen Query first emphasizes a serious deficit in multi-joint, multi-plane kinetic movements, gross motor-skill development, and a very limited experience with the Olympic Lifts.

“Does this matter?”

Few know of a need to get away from the “knock-knee” sort of stance and begin assuming an “Athletic Stance,” much less, know what an Athletic Stance is. In terms of physical body-weight control and movement, “Females have four to six times’ greater chance of experiencing a lower body knee injury.

Knowing your weaknesses is a start.

From my notes taken at this conference, we learn a preponderance of women tend toward diminished body control. Some reasons or possibilities Coach Query cites:

  • Early onset of neuro-muscular fatigue.
  • Lower levels of glycolytic capacity at high levels of exercise intensity.
  • Much longer femur over tibia length which may mean not enough hip flexion in a power movement and too much knee movement to compensate for this.


“Women tend to be quad-dominant and need more lower body strength and dynamic flexibility, versus static flexibility in the hamstrings and glutes.”

Overall, a strong emphasis on athletic stance, postural alignment, core-abdominal-lumbar and hip strength: in “ground-based, closed (kinetic) chain movements.

Romanian (stiff-legged) deadlifts – RDLs, standard close-stance and wide-stance (Sumo-style) deadlifts will minimizes deficiencies generally. Adding upper body push ups, pull ups, dips, high pulls or cleans, and standing overhead presses, done in a controlled manner strengthens the entire kinetic chain and stabilizer muscles and can aid in developing balance and athletic movement.
In discussing squat modifications, Query recommends initial use of the physio-ball.

“Practice knee-bends well before going into serious weights.”

(At Powerfultimes.com, I suggest exploring the somewhat more joint-stress free Bent-Knee Good-Mornings, for greater lumbar, hip, and overall leg strength that also includes calves and hamstrings, to a large extent. Perform this exercise movement for just a single set of deep-breathing 10-20 reps.)

WMU Coach Jen Query on Weight Control
The de-emphasis on weight control or weight loss in favor of strength and conditioning more for power in women’s athletics, scholastic or private, does not ignore the need for improvement in body composition, according to Query.

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