• Sam Gilman

Coaching Women

Photo Langevoord.com
Photo Langevoord.com

“The chances that girls don’t get, I’d like to fight that. I’d like to turn that around and be sure that the chances that they deserve, that they do get them. What we are trying to do is to prove to organizations, prove to people, that girls can play baseball just like any other guy can. I say ‘Okay, so girls cannot play baseball? Let’s prove to the world that they can.'”, Olympic baseball player Eddie Dix says.

Dix played in two World Cups, three European Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and participated in the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He has coached the national AAA team for three years. Today, Dix is the coach of the Women’s National Team for the Netherlands. This September, he and his assistant coaches Ramon Rijgersberg and Marko Winkel, will travel to South Korea with their team to represent the Netherlands in the Women’s Baseball World Cup.

If you could have a ball player that would take your instruction on first request and who was more open about the off-field issues that might be affecting their play, would you sign them up? If you answered yes then, according to Dix, maybe you should consider a team filled with women.

Are there differences in the way that they play the game of baseball?

Baseball-wise, no. Fe/male-wise, yes, there’s a difference but not in the game.

What about the physical differences?

I believe that the technique of hitting is the same for women and men. The most power we can generate comes from legs and hips. That doesn’t change by gender. The same goes for throwing or running. The way women throw/run is no different to men.

What was the most unusual adjustment for you?

Dix: The openness that the girls display. All their problems they just put them on the table and that was a surprise, especially for me, that they would talk so openly and so freely about what’s bothering them; their personal problems. Men don’t talk about their personal problems and…

Rijgersberg: Show their emotions.

Dix: Yeah, that was strange.

But in a good way yeah?

Dix and Rijgersberg respond in unison: In a good way!

Dix: Absolutely, in a good way.

Rijgersberg: Absolutely, yeah.

Dix: We want to build a team and if you want everybody to perform at their best then they have to feel comfortable. The more comfortable you are, the better you perform. You’ve got to listen to the girls. You’ve got to be open for criticism so they can be their best.

One of the ways your team prepares for competition is by playing men’s teams. Does this offer any advantages?

Playing against men can be an advantage if the men understand that it is not about them but about making the women better. Men hit harder, run faster, and throw harder, forcing the women to react and think faster. In that way they are forced to think in advance. They learn the game faster and they become better players. Pitchers are forced to throw around batters and work the spots otherwise they will be hit hard.

What we experience is that playing against men helps us to improve our level. When we play, we use our own pitchers on both teams so the pitchers get more innings (experience) and the hitters see female pitches. Due to the lack of female teams we are forced to play against men’s teams so I cannot compare that to women’s teams. The only time we play against women is during our last preparations in Japan (one week before the World Cup). The girls find this very pleasant, to finally play against all-girls teams and test their level with other girls.

Any advice for coaches of female ballplayers?

Get the girls to trust you as soon as possible. Be straight and honest. Be willing to listen to the girls but stay on top/in control. Keep your story real. Be willing to listen to them.