Considerations for coaches training female athletes

Guy Pitchers with Kirsty Elliott-Sale

Like their male counterparts, female athletes want to become fitter, faster and stronger, meaning that there is a requirement for researchers, practitioners and coaches to better understand the female athlete. Most training programmes/ interventions are based upon research on men: women have been considered physiologically too variable, with the menstrual cycle deemed to be a barrier for inclusion with potential interference to results.10 There are many physiological and psychological differences between the sexes, and indeed between women themselves (eg, oral contraceptive users versus non-users). Therefore, in order to truly individualise and optimise training, these differences must be considered during the planning and implementation of strength and conditioning plans. Coaches need to understand female-specific issues such as: the menstrual cycle, breast health, female psychology and trends in female injuries in order to be able truly to promote the health and well-being of female athletes; this means, in turn, that they can train sportswomen in their own right and not group them with men.

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