Q: What suggestions do you have for motivating U11/12 girls? Is it much different than with boys the same age? I'd like to motivate and challenge them in a way that keeps them interested in soccer.
A: The best way to motivate U11/12 boys or girls is by creating a FUN learning environment. Training sessions should be short (1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes). Change exercises often. The term I use is: I "imprint" a concept rather than drill it into them. Imprinting is a consistent layering of a concept of play or technical skill. At first, hardly anyone understands or can do it, but it's important to keep moving on. Don't linger on a difficult concept because, your training sessions become tedious, boring and you lose that motivational edge. Slowly, one by one the players will start to understand and use the concept or technique. This is imprinting.
You used the word challenge and I think that is the foundation of my coaching. If you can create realistic challenges for your players and then guide them to success, you have done them a great service. When any of us are challenged in anything we do and we come through the challenge successfully, we feel pretty good about ourselves. For me, it may be a corporate speech or presentation. If I hit it, I have a boost in self-esteem or confidence. Your players respond similarly. If you build their self-esteem, you also affect their performance on the field. It is that direct of a correlation.
I have found that boys and girls in this age group for the most part respond the same to coaching, good or bad. The girls are growing up physically faster and the boys are going into that awkward growth age. Both are going through a lot of changes, and it's important that any teacher or coach of this age group understands how difficult some of those changes can be. The egos of the boys start to play out, and the drive to establish oneself is evident. However, the similarities greatly outweigh the differences working with this age group.
Remember coaching isn't a feminine or masculine thing? it's a HUMAN thing.