The Hartford Courant

Sunday, July 18, 1999
Commentary; Pages C1,C3

Q&A Tony DiCicco


'You Don't Want to Belittle A Female Player In Front of Her Peers...'



Tony DiCicco is coach of the the Women's World Cup soccer champions. He spoke with Commentary Editor Carolyn Lundsen on Friday [7-16-99] at his Wethersfield home. Here are excepts from the interview.

How is coaching women different from coaching men?

To coach women, you have to have a relationship with them. When you coach men, you can distance yourself from them and just oversee and manage them -- which isn't necessarily my style, because I enjoy the contact with the players, men or women.

But to coach women, you have to have a relationship with them. They have to like or respect you at a level where they want to be led by you, because I don't think they'll just follow anyone.

Is it true that women are better team players than men?

That's a generality. It is more important for women to have a tight team, but as a player. I was always conscious of my team. Most men are.

However, it's almost essential that women have this sense of team. If they don't like each other off the field, it's definitely going to impact their performance on the field, whereas men can almost dislike each other off the field, but they can put that aside on the field. When they walk off the field, they wsalk in different directions. But on the field, if you can help me win, that's good enough.

Do you discipline or criticize female players differently from the way you would discipline or criticize men?

I don't necessarily, because the way I criticize men is not to get in their face. However, there is the isolated incident where you will put down a male player in front of everyone else just to control his ego. It doesn't work with women.

You don't want to belittle a female player in front of her peers, because that doesn't get what you expect. It doesn't get them to fall in line. What it gets is that everyone on the team jumps to their side and is angry at you. Whereas with the men's team, in he background the other guys are going, "Yeah, it's good to let him have it a bit."

In-your-face coaching, overly critical coaching, belittling the players in front of their teammates is not a technique that gets what you want from the women. It is not going to inspire them to play harder. It's not going to make them feel like they need to prove something to you. What it does is turn the team against you and it also makes them more inhibited as far as their playing.

How do you get women to fall in line or motivate them if yelling doesn't work?

You can still be critical. It's just the way you deliver that criticism. something like, "That wasn't a bad idea, what you tried there, but I think this is better, so just hear me out." Basically you're saying that idea was terrible, and this is the way I want you to play, but you're not saying it that way.

An important component to a women's team is the leadership. the leadership has to buy into what you're trying to accomplish, the way you're trying to accomplish it, what your priorities are. Once your leadership buys in, it's going to go right through the team. The leadership doesn't control the team, but it influences the team very strongly. the players want to work together and be a close-knit unit.

It's tremendously important in the men's team too, but the leadership can come from the individual a bit more in the men's team.

Do you think these principles are applicable in real life?

Absolutely. If you want to get the most out of your employees or department or your staff, there are things that will work and won't work. You have to have relationships within your department and with the women in your department. It has to be positive. It can't be build on fear, intimidation or anything negative.

Why is there only one black woman on the women's team roster?

The game of soccer -- even on the men's side, although it's making much better inroads there -- is still a middle-class sport. We need to do a better job. We have programs to reach inner-city girls and athletes because they are such a tremendous resource to us.

Among the Latino population, there is a tremendous soccer knowledge and there are great male players. It hasn't happened yet on the women's side because the stigma of "My daughter playing the macho game" hasn't been overcome. It's starting to be, though.

Why is the American men's team so bad>

They're not bad; they're just playing in a much more challenging environment. Most of the international women's teams have just celebrated their 25th year of soccer. (The United States') first year as a national team was 1985. the American women started at about the same time the women around world started.

In the men's game, however, we're generations behind. It Italy decided to play baseball tomorrow, they would be way behind us and it would take a while for them to build up.

Our men and our women are growing the sport pretty much together. There is nowhere else in the world that that's happening. The men will still draw larger crowds more often, but we're close to that.

Do you personally care if women's soccer goes professional?

I personally do care, yes. That was one of my visions when I took over the job as head coach. I'm hoping that it does happen.

It has to be realistic. The best model right now is the WNBA. Some players there were making modest salaries coming into the league and others considerable salaries because they were the draws -- and they were the ones who had to do all the marketing and the appearances to make this thing happen.

I think it has to be done on that model, where it's not going to be at the same level professionally as are major men's sports, because it needs to go through some growing stages before it can get near those levels.





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