Ask a Coach!: Gender Differences in Coaching

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 23. THE Ask A Coach! series returns with Tennessee associate coach of men's and women's swimming and diving Tyler Fenwick looking into the differences between coaching men and women. Although he's coached both male and female swimmers in the past, he is experiencing a new dynamic at Tennessee because this year is the first time the men's and women's team are combined at the University.

What have you found to be the differences between coaching men and women?

Great question! I want to preface my response by stating that these are broad generalities regarding gender differences. Everyone I've coached is unique and their personalities, actions and behaviors can't necessarily be characterized by what locker room they use! That being said, there are some common themes I've seen in my time coaching men and women.

The most apparent difference is confidence. Men are typically more outgoing, aggressive and display a great deal of certainty in their ability to perform. Where many times the trash talk, yelling and chest pounding seems more bravado than substance, men tend to conduct themselves with a more visible confidence than women. Often I find myself having to give a male athlete a reality check and let them know that where I appreciate their self-belief, there is still work to be done before they will be in a position to perform at a high level.

Women exude amazing determination but often need a bit more nurturing to bring out their best. Frequently reminding a female athlete of their immense capabilities and past success helps provide a sense of strength. The knowledge that they have someone in their corner supporting them, who believes in their ability, helps to create a sense that the sky is the limit.

Swimming is a fiercely competitive sport. Many of the differences in men and women that can be seen on a pool deck are reinforced by societal genders roles placed on males and females from birth. Where men are praised for their confidence, competitive triumphs and strength, women are expected to be more submissive and less competitive.

At Tennessee, our coaching staff has made a commitment to breaking down these stereotypes and creating an environment that produces fierce competitors and tenacious leaders, regardless of gender. One of the major responsibilities of a coach is to help build a sense of confidence in each of their athletes. Confidence is a tool that breeds success not only in the pool but in all aspects of life. There are few things more rewarding in my career than watching a timid freshman mature into a self-assured team leader ready for anything life can throw at them!

Our resident expert coach currently is Tyler Fenwick, Tennessee's Associate Coach for the men's and women's swimming and diving program. Fenwick has coaching experience at both the collegiate and club swimming level. Before moving to Tennessee, he spent three years (2009-12) as the Head Men's National Team coach for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, a premier gold medal club in Mission Viejo, Calif.

In his time with the Nadadores, Fenwick's athletes posted 58 National Age Group top-10 swims, 24 top-three swims and seven #1 ranked swims. His swimmers broke 13 Nadadore club records, four Southern California records and one National Age Group record. This past year alone, two swimmers each made the U.S. National Team, Junior Pan Pacific Team and Junior World Championship Team. Two of his swimmers won gold and bronze medals at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships. To cap it all off, he coached the 5k National Champion, David Heron, at the Open Water National Championships. Heron has since committed to rejoining Fenwick as a Volunteer after his senior year of high school. Another distance freestyle recruit, Evan Pinion, has also decided to be a Volunteer in college.

If you would like to submit a question to Coach Fenwick, email us or leave a comment below! All swimming-related questions are welcome!