3 Reasons You Need to Provide Your Female Athletes with Quality Training

Since Title IX passed in 1972, female participation in high school sports in America has absolutely skyrocketed. The number of girls playing high schools sports in the U.S. rose from approximately 300k in 1972 to 3.3 million in 2015—that’s 11 times more girls playing sports today! When you compare data for boys’ participation in sports (a relatively moderate increase from 3.7 to 4.5 million over the same timeline), it’s clear that women’s sports have made some momentous strides.

While boys outnumbered girls in sports 12-to-1 in 1972, today that ratio is only a little over 1-to-1. This is a truly a new era for female sports participation in America.

Based on our experience talking to thousands of coaches across the country, it’s a new era for female participation in strength training as well. Coaches of women’s teams tend to be very enthusiastic about the opportunity to provide their female athletes quality training, because historically their athletes haven’t participated in any kind of structured strength and conditioning program. More girls than ever before are excited to buy into a strength training program—as long as it feels like it’s been designed specifically for them.

Since we were founded in 2011, Volt has provided quality sport-specific training for thousands of teams who have seen success building a good team culture around the weight room, developing strength and power, and preventing avoidable injuries. But besides providing access to training resources previously unavailable for some athletes, what excites me most about Volt is that nearly half of all Volt teams are female.

Today’s athletic directors, coaches, and school administrators have been tasked with the mission of ensuring equality among their athletes, making sure one sport doesn’t get all the budget and guaranteeing that resources are spread evenly across men’s and women’s sports. But if your school isn’t catering to the needs of your female athletes, here are 3 reasons why you might want to rethink how you’re approaching strength and conditioning for this growing demographic.

 

1. Female Athletes and Injuries


“Volt’s training was a critical piece in our success this year making it to the national quarterfinals. Before Volt, we were averaging 1.5 ACL tears per season. While using Volt, we have not had an ACL tear for the past two years—and with such a small team, having healthy starters is critical for our success.”
Andy Kaplan, Head Coach, Reinhardt University Women’s Soccer
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From a physiological standpoint, men and women respond the same to strength training protocols (we are, after all, the same species!). A back squat will affect a male athlete the same as it will a female athlete—and in that sense, strength training programs for men and women should look very similar.

But there are certain biomechanical differences between the sexes that can necessitate differentiation in training protocols for some sports, the biggest discrepancy being the angle from the hip to the knee.

Women have a greater hip-to-knee angle (Q-angle) than men do, which may contribute to a  higher risk of knee injury. Female athletes in sports that require pivoting and jumping, for example, are 4-6 times more likely to suffer an ACL tear than male athletes. Most of these tears occur in non-contact situations (like decelerating or landing), which makes them relatively preventable with the proper strength and conditioning interventions.

Volt takes these biomechanical differences into account when designing female-specific training programs for sports like basketball, field hockey, and volleyball. We include more targeted ACL injury prevention exercises aimed at improving the strength of the glutes and hips and the stability of the knee in these female-specific plans, in an effort to address injury risks unique to women. 

We believe there is physiological justification for this gender-specific training intervention—but most importantly, we believe that consistent participation in a properly designed strength training program is the best form of injury prevention for female athletes (as it is for all athletes). If you have your women’s sports doing subpar training or bodyweight-only programs, then you might not be equipping your female athletes to effectively get stronger and prevent injuries.

If you currently aren’t offering female-specific training programs to your women’s teams, consider the impact it can have on encouraging athletes to buy into training—and how that in turn can change the entire culture of your weight room. Having specific training can signify to athletes that she (or he!) is valued, and that all athletes are equal.

 

2. Greater Buy-in to Strength Training


“This is the first time I have seen my girls excited about lifting weights.”
Bob Berkley, Head Coach, Ridge Meadows Pride Softball
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Despite the increase in number of girls playing sports, the weight room can still carry a negative stigma of being a “boys-only” place to female athletes. When you consider how collegiate strength and conditioning became a paid profession in America, this apprehension of the weight room makes some sense. The first paid S&C coach in the U.S. was a football coach (coincidentally, he is also the Chairman of Volt’s Advisory Board, Hall of Fame Strength Coach Boyd Epley). Football adopted S&C more readily than other sports for this reason, so it’s easy to see why some female teams may view strength training as a predominantly male activity—especially at schools where priority in budget and weight room scheduling may be given to the all-male football team.

We’ve heard from so many coaches of women’s teams that it can be tough to get their girls to buy into the idea of strength training. While every situation is unique, there are several potential cultural factors that play into this avoidance: a misplaced fear of becoming “bulky,” long-held beliefs about strength training being a “masculine” activity,  and a lack of knowledge/comfort in the weight room can all contribute to women’s reluctance to adopt a strength training program.

But what we’ve heard from those same coaches, who work with their women’s teams to adopt Volt, the athletes quickly realize the value in training—especially when athletes can train on a program designed specifically for females.

If you currently aren’t offering female-specific training programs to your women’s teams, consider the impact it can have on encouraging athletes to buy into training—and how that in turn can change the entire culture of your weight room. Having specific training can signify to athletes that she (or he!) is valued, and that all athletes are equal.

 

3. A Huge Competitive Advantage

“The gains our players made over the past two years with regard to physical strength and speed were major contributing factors to our success throughout our National Championship season.”
Katharine DeLorenzo, Head Coach, Middlebury College Women’s Field Hockey
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Since so many female teams still don’t have access to quality training, it gives teams that DO strength train a huge competitive advantage. Whereas all footballs teams are in the weight room, all women’s lacrosse teams—or cross country, or soccer, and so on—might not be, giving the teams that do utilize the weight room a significant immediate advantage over opponents who may not be training properly. In other words, a strength training program can create even more opportunities for success on the field, court, or pitch for women’s teams.

This is what makes Volt so exciting for female athletes: we are equipping girls across the country to see real and meaningful change in their lives.

While a properly implemented strength and conditioning program helps all athletes, male and female, improve the physical qualities that translate to better and safer competition, there seems to be potential for significant culture and performance changes for women’s teams—perhaps more so than men’s teams. And we have a lot of feedback from Volt coaches about how strength training has impacted their female athletes.

 

The Takeaway

If Volt is the right system for helping you provide quality training to all your athletes (and it’s my hope that it is), great! But regardless of whether you choose Volt, your female athletes need a strength training program that provides more than just bodyweight exercises. Female athletes need training that is proven, creates buy-in, keeps them healthy, and helps them perform at a high level. Give them access to quality training, and there’s no limit to what they can achieve.  
 


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Christye Estes, CSCS, is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. She is an NSCA-certified strength coach and a Sport Performance Specialist at Volt.
Learn more about Christye and read her other posts | @CoachChristye