Because girls quit sports 6x the rate of boys, we wrote a book!
In the News
Thank you Aisling Nig Ruairc and Joyce Lamb!
Hi Mia and Alison,
Below is a link to an interview Aisling did about her project Keep Your Girls Playing which she has been rolling out since September with the coaches, parents and 12-13 year old girls in our local GAA club:
There has been very positive feedback from the wider GAA community about her interview and she’s been happily recommending your book to any of the coaching educators that have been in contact. Hopefully you might get a few more book orders from Ireland!
And her ‘Keeping Girls Playing Project’ is having such a positive impact in Cuala that it will hopefully give other clubs some really helpful food for thought as to how best to keep girls involved in team sport.
“When I was researching this I came across a survey saying that one of two girls will drop out of team sport by the age of 13 and are three times more likely to give it up than boys are.
“It kind of shocked me at first because I know from my own personal experience of all the benefits that come from playing team sport.
“But when I thought about it made sense because my own team lost around half of our players by the time we were 13 and struggled to field a team at that age.
Alison Foley will be on Madison Throws Club podcast with Joe on Monday, June 15th at 8:30 AM CST.
Tackling College Sports episode 039 with Alison Foley is available here. We discuss recruiting during COVID-19. Lots of useful info for student-athletes & her new book “The Elusive Full Ride Scholarship” is available here.
Co-author Alison Foley will be on Tackling College Sports podcast with Chris LeGates on Thursday, May 14th at 11 am EST.
Alison Foley, co-author of How To Coach Girls, is featured in the Boston Globe.
How young is too young to recruit kids for college teams?
As women’s soccer coach at Boston College, Alison Foley grappled with practices that had girls committing to teams while in middle school.
Alison Foley, the winningest coach in the history of Boston College women’s soccer, became troubled by the sharp rise in recruiting middle school girls through “verbal commitments.” (JONATHAN WIGGS / GLOBE STAFF)
By the time Alison Foley entered her senior year at Plymouth-Carver High School in 1987, there was little doubt she was headed for big things in college soccer. Still, under NCAA rules, she waited until that fall to take her five official college visits and decide where to spend the next four years. She ultimately accepted an athletic scholarship to Keene State College, going on to earn All-America honors.
But as the head women’s soccer coach for Boston College for the last two decades, Foley saw the landscape change dramatically. On the books, the NCAA now required prospective recruits to wait until junior year to visit colleges. In reality, though, at most elite Division I women’s soccer programs, team rosters were all set by the time of those visits. College coaches had long ago buttoned up their recruiting class through an off-the-books “verbal commitment” process that made the official one look like something of a sham. [more here]
Alison Foley featured on Fox Sports:
Young athletes barely out of elementary school committing to college teams
By: Jim Morelli
Soccer players about to enter middle school might suddenly find themselves the objects of surprising attention — from college coaches.
“In women’s soccer right now in Division One, there are 333 teams,” said Alison Foley, former coach of the Boston College women’s soccer team. “Everybody’s out there. All the college coaches are out there every weekend… recruiting.”
Foley, who coached the Eagles for more than 20 years, says new NCAA recruiting rules for Division 1 and 2 schools restricting back-and-forth communication between players and collegiate coaches until after 10th grade will probably curb some of the middle school recruiting. But she doesn’t see it going away.
“In general do I think it’s a good practice? I don’t,” Foley said. “I just think there are so many more things to think about that you don’t know to think about or consider such a big decision in 7th and 8th grade.”
But Foley, who now works with a Boston-area club soccer team, says recruiting young adolescents sometimes makes sense. She recently found an 8th grader who was a good fit for Boston College and that player verbally committed to that school.
COMMITTING TOO SOON?
Unfortunately, some verbal commitments made by young student-athletes come with a dangerous assumption, says Kim Penney, owner of One on One College Consulting of Wakefield, Massachusetts “It does not mean that the student-athlete is accepted to the school. It is actually just a handshake.”
Penney warns that if there’s a coaching change at the college or if the student’s grades aren’t good enough for the admissions office, that verbal commitment might not mean much in the end. “To have that sport… the ball so to speak… move that process.. in my opinion is the biggest mistake ever,” she said.
She suggests first finding a school that is an academic and social fit — so that if the sport part of it doesn’t work out, the student won’t be somewhere they don’t want to be.
And keep in mind, Penney said, once you announce a verbal commitment to a school — other coaches will usually respect that — which could prematurely cut off other options. “You are off the market… essentially,” Penney said.
That’s why Penney advises not committing to college until junior year of high school. And to maximize your athletic options — crack the books. “Do the very, very best you can academically,” she said. “The better you do academically the more offers you will have athletically.”
THE ROLE OF COSTLY CLUB TEAMS
Along with good grades, one other thing is becoming increasingly important for athletic recruitment: playing on a club team. “I don’t remember the last time… it was probably 20 years ago that I got a player who only played high school and wasn’t involved in a club,” said Foley.
For some players, club teams are cost prohibitive. “You’re looking at, per season, usually around three thousand dollars,” Foley said. But that’s just the beginning of the expenses. Club team games often involve travel with sometimes overnight accommodations required. And then there are the tournaments.
“So there are normally three or four tournaments a year,” Foley said. “One may be local. The others might be in Florida, which is very common. Or California.”
Some parents feel the money is well spent. Often attending those tournaments, as well as events known as ‘showcases,’ are collegiate coaches looking for future talent.
Foley helped organize one such event earlier this month at Brandeis University. Some fifty college soccer coaches evaluated more than two hundred girls in grades 7-10.
Fifteen-year-old Grazzie Bhatia and her Mom, Michelle, came to the event all the way from Singapore.
“This is a great opportunity to meet some coaches and some other players and get a feel for what it might be to be a college player,” said Michelle Bhatia.
Tina Datta and daughter Sarah also traveled from Singapore. “This gives a wide opportunity for a multitude of coaches to take a look at your child, Datta said. “We’ve been talking to a number of Division 3 schools that have expressed a lot of interest in Sarah.”
Ryan O’Neill of West Bridgewater watched as his daughter Shea, an 8th grader, played a scrimmage with mostly older girls. “It could pay off,” he said — but added that it’s ultimately up to her. “If she wants to throw the towel in, call it a career at the high school level or advance to the collegiate level. You know it’s a big commitment.”
That’s the part about playing college sports some overlook, said Kim Penney, who played basketball at Tufts University, a Division 3 school. “If you can play a sport in college it’s wonderful,” she said. “You have an instant family… you have camaraderie… you have friends you go through a lot with.”
But, she adds, you also may have restrictions on your life if you’re playing on an athletic scholarship for a Division 1 or 2 school (Division 3 schools do not grant athletic scholarships). Certain majors are off limits because team travel will interfere with classes, she said. You might have to attend summer school for the same reason. And sleeping-in might not be an option if there are early morning practices.
One reason Penney chose to play at Tufts was because she wanted the option to study abroad — which would not have been possible playing for a Division 1 or 2 school.
She said always remember… you are in control of your destiny.
“Even if you’re great… you can play at the highest level… do you want that?” Penney said. “Sports is wonderful. But what else do you want? “
ALISON FOLEY: Work Hard, Have Fun, and Remain Positive
Why did you become a coach?
The college coach who recruited me, Dave Lombardo who had moved to JMU in Virginia, asked if I would come down and be his graduate assistant coach. I found out I loved coaching! I realized through the game that I loved to play, I could now coach and impact players both on and off the field.
Alison Foley chosen as Top 50 Influencers by New England Soccer Journal!
▪ Women’s head coach | Boston College
Foley’s imprint is all over soccer in New England, far beyond bringing Boston College’s women’s team to 14 NCAA berths. She’s the senior director of coaching for South Shore Select, runs the Lady Eagles Soccer School and serves on the Region 1 ODP staff. Beyond her soccer duties, Foley recently coauthored a book called “How to Coach Girls.”
Thank you to everyone who read about HOW TO COACH GIRLS! We trended at the #3 spot!
Is it surprising that girls and women regularly underestimate their abilities and intelligence? It’s the opposite for boys and men who often overestimate theirs.
Katelyn Cooper, a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University, and her team asked 250 undergraduate biology students about their intelligence as compared to their peers.
“I would ask students about how their classes were going and I noticed a trend,” Cooper said. “Over and over again, women would tell me that they were afraid that other students thought that they were ‘stupid.’ I never heard this from the men in those same biology classes, so I wanted to study it.”
This confidence disparity by gender is not just true for biology students. Girls (and women) also underestimate their abilities across the board from academics to the workplace to sports. And, also notable, is that boys (and men) are the complete opposite, often believing that they are better than they actually are.
Alison Foley has definitely accumulated enough knowledge to fill a book in her more than 20 years of coaching women’s college soccer. So that’s exactly what the Plymouth native decided to do. The Boston College women’s soccer head coach recently collaborated with her friend, professional blogger Mia Wenjen, on a new book called “How to Coach Girls.”
Foley and Wenjen will have a book signing for “How to Coach Girls” from 4 to 6 p.m. on May 12 at the South Shore Sports Center in Hingham.
WBZ’s Laurie Kirby speaks with Alison Foley, head coach of the women’s soccer team at Boston College.
Equinox: Soccer to Co-Author
Foley said she chose to write the book because, after looking at high school statistics relating to sports, she found it disturbing how many middle school girls were dropping out of teams and choosing not to play sports anymore.
Foley said she believes positivity is key. Foley hopes that each coach who reads the book will be able to find tips that will help create a positive team environment, solve some of the common issues that often develop on women’s teams, and eventually help each coach navigate through the adversities.
Foley’s advice and tips come from long-term experience and struggles that she has faced and overcome in her career.
Two major milestones in one year – it’s not something many college coaches in any sport can say they’ve accomplished. Plymouth native Alison Foley, the head coach of the Boston College women’s soccer team, joined an elite group when the Eagles beat Maryland, 2-1 in overtime, Sept. 22. She earned her 200th career coaching win. Four weeks later, when the Eagles beat one of the top teams in the nation – Wake Forest – Foley earned her 200th career win at Boston College.
“As the mother of a daughter growing up with the sport, she had a chance to watch how the dynamics of the sport of soccer – and other sports – influenced her daughter’s interest and passion for sports both positively and negatively.
The result of some of her thoughts and research on the subject are included in the new book “How to Coach Girls” – which she co-authors with friend and fellow Newtonite Mia Wenjen.”
Come meet the winningest coach in Boston College Women’s Soccer History, Alison Foley and Popular Mommy Blogger & author Mia Wenjen as they sign copies of their new book “How to Coach Girls.”
Alison Foley on The Coaching Academy with Glenn Crooks on SiriusXM from March 7
Berkshire Soccer Academy Newsletter: How To Coach Girls
The cornerstones of this book are a recognition of the vast differences that exist between girls and boys, and the distinctive needs these differences create for girls. The authors contend that, in order for girls to realize their full potential, their specific needs must be specifically addressed in the way coaches develop their female players.
For example, boys are generally more confident and tend to inflate their abilities, whereas girls often doubt their own abilities; they are afraid to fail and let down their coach and teammates. Additionally, it is important for girls to be viewed as “whole persons,” not just as athletes. This means that coaches must focus on keeping it fun, building team chemistry and creating a safe and nurturing environment so the girls feel comfortable with the possibility of failure. Girls who trust their coach and feel a strong camaraderie with their teammates will work harder and progress faster.
Boston Globe: Dan Shaughnessy’s Boston Globe Sunday column
Highly recommended: “How To Coach Girls,’’ a new book co-authored by Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley. Foley is a local mom and longtime head coach of the wildly successful women’s soccer team at Boston College.
(Excerpted from “How to Coach Girls,” by Alison Foley and Mia Wenjen, Audrey Press, 2018. The book, which focuses on the key elements to keep girls coming back next season, covering topics like Coaching Your Own Daughter to Pitfalls of Choosing Captains to Developing Team Chemistry, will be released March 1 and can be pre-ordered HERE.)
The following is an excerpt from “How to Coach Girls,” written by Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley. Foley is the head women’s soccer coach at Boston College, where she has led her teams to the postseason during 13 consecutive seasons. Wenjen is an entrepreneur and blogger at PragmaticMom.com.
“I know that I’ll be referring back this book for years to come for its
many reminders and tips on how to create a fun environment for kids
that increases the chances of individual … A must-read for youth
soccer coaches. I’ve been coaching boys and girls for more than a
decade and researched the topic of coaching girls extensively. I know
that I’ll be referring back to this book for years to come for its
many reminders and tips on how to create a fun environment for kids
that increases the chances of individual and team success.”
Mia: My daughter’s club volleyball coach is amazing; he thanks players for running for an out of bounds ball that they have no hope of getting. They would walk through fire for him. I asked him when we headed over to the team dinner one night if he had always coached this way. He told me that he used to be the kind of coach who was the hardest on the most promising player, but he learned that you can’t coach girls in that way.
“I learned that I was not alone in having girls who were contemplating quitting their sport. About 70% of all kids quit organized sports by the age of 13, with girls quitting at six times the rate of boys! And, given the vital role that sports play in nurturing girls’ positive body image, self-esteem and confidence – Alison Foley and I set out to create a guide book to teach others. How to Coach Girls launches on March 1.”
We received this email after Alison’s radio interview. He asked to remain anonymous:
“I am writing after hearing Alison interviewed today on ‘The Coaching Academy’ on Sirius Radio. As a youth travel soccer coach for the past six years — and as a dad of four kids all playing in our local club — your thoughts really resonated with me.
I am currently coaching my daughter’s U9 travel team and so many of the issues Alison mentioned were things I could relate to. We have a great bunch of kids who did amazingly well in our fall season but as great as things have been among the girls, I have to say, working with and dealing with some of the parents, and their expectations, has been a major headache!
We’ve got clique issues. We’ve got issues with parents who want us to do more soccer (we already playing year round!). We’ve got parents (some of whom are experienced coaches in either soccer or other sports) with VERY strong opinions about how things should be handled, and aren’t too shy about sharing their opinions (my favorite; when we combined training with our ‘B’ team last summer, mostly because we had low numbers during vacation season, we got complaints that the ‘A’ players were not being challenged enough … at 8 years old!). We’ve got parents who are convinced that their kids are destined for superstardom.
For the most part, though, what we’ve got a lot of parents who are going through youth soccer for the first time. They mean well. But some of them don’t get it. And as a result, after two years, I am utterly exhausted!
One of the things I always tell people is that when it comes to youth sports, perspective and context is everything. There are folks in our club who certainly know soccer more than I do. I don’t have an advanced license. My soccer career ended by the time I got to high school. But having been through the youth soccer ringer for seven years, I do know that I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. I’ve learned that doing the right thing is more important than doing the most expedient thing. I’ve learned that you always need to think about the good of the team — and every kid on your team — and not just the good of your own kid. I’ve learned that you need to treat people with respect, and that tough conversations are best had over the phone or in person, rather than over email. I’ve learned that ‘A’ and ‘B’ is almost meaningless when the kids are younger, and I’ve also learned that if you just give a kid a chance to keep playing they usually get better (nothing makes me more upset than people casually talking about cutting kids when they are 7 and 8 years old!). More than anything else — and I was glad to hear Alison say this on the show today — I’ve learned that the most important thing is to make sure the kids have FUN. Because the moment the fun stops is the moment they stop getting better. I keep telling people this. But I don’t think they listen. They will have to learn it on their own — just like I did!
Anyway, I enjoyed the interview a lot and look forward to reading your book. Thank you for being a voice of reason in a world that needs more voices of reason.”
Mia Wenjen on Parenting Forward with Cindy Brandt.
We talked about parenting, diversity books and keeping girls in sports. The video is here.