Diane Jones is not trying to go boldly where no woman has gone before. But she is trekking into a relatively new frontier.

In her second year as coach of Wootton High School's freshman boys basketball team, Jones is the only woman in Montgomery County coaching an exclusively boys team, according to Bill Kyle, supervisor of Montgomery County athletics. There are few women coaching coed teams.

"At first, everytime I went to a game, they {opponents} were taken aback," she said. "One time they thought I was a parent driver. Another time, when a team came to the gym, I greeted the coach and told him that if there was anything he needed, just to let me know. They were very polite, but he thought I was a staff member. He didn't know I was the coach until the team took the floor."

She isn't Gloria Steinem with a coach's whistle, nor is she the airhead Goldie Hawn was as high school football coach in the movie, "Wildcats." She's a coach with a purpose and she just happens to be female.

"It is different," she said, "but I didn't want it to take a stand or make a statement. I felt I was being watched, but watched in terms of adults, not kids. I thought it would be the other way around. All players give respect to coaches who earn it; I don't care what sport it is. In general, the players want someone who is knowledgeable, interested and enthusiastic. There is no sex barrier to cross."

If there is no sex barrier for her to cross, there is the sound barrier. The only marked change she makes in her coaching style when working with males is presentation, and volume. "One thing I have to do when I coach with males is shout a little more than I'm used to. I have to raise my voice more. It's almost like they don't lock in until you're at a certain decibel level.

"That's not something I do with females. I've talked with other coaches, and most of them agreed. To yell at females in an uncontrolled manner doesn't produce good results. It doesn't always produce good results with males, either, but they are used to it. From Little League on up, you see male coaches screaming, in soccer, tennis or football. By and large, positively or negatively, they do shout. I have to work up the energy to realize that I have to raise my voice."

She also has coached junior high girls basketball and varsity field hockey. She has noticed a difference between coaching boys and girls, but the difference is not in the sex of the coach, but the athlete.

"I feel I have to push {the girls teams} further to physically condition them," she said. "By and large, men tend to do better when they are individualized. They respond better to individual situations in terms of picking apart strategy and performance. Part of that could be because field hockey has 11 players, and, rather than singling out a person, I made it more general. Men seem more unafraid to approach their own shortcoming."

On the first day of practice last year with her new team, Jones obviously didn't have to point out to the team she was female. But, she could have introduced the topic and its possible ramifications and discomforts just to clear the air.

She didn't.

"If they had something to say, they would say it. I didn't broach the subject. I figured, let sleeping dogs lie . . . this has never been discussed. I may ask them toward the end of the season, but just because I am curious."

"She knows a lot about basketball," said player Ted Sherburne. "I heard before from some players that she wasn't good; some players said she was, so I had mixed feelings. Now we're doing really well {Wootton is 4-5}. She's doing a great job . . . one of the better coaches I've had. She works us hard . . . I don't see any difference between the coaching of a man and a woman. It doesn't matter."

Teammate Paul Pannu echoed those sentiments. "Most people are open to the idea. To me, a coach is a coach. The philosophy of basketball is the same."

But there is another double standard.

"We had a woman official one game, and the kids had a reaction to that," Jones said of a game last season. "One of the players asked, 'What is she doing here?', and he was questioning her expertise. But the fact that they did have a reaction surprised me . . . I was startled. They had accepted my sex as a coach, but . . . a woman ref made them have a reaction, not a negative one, but a reaction."

And speaking of double standards, she thinks the rarety of her situation is pretty simple: as a woman coaching a boys team, she is simply outnumbered.

"Basically, it's just the total male domination," she said. "Another thing probably has to do with maybe when the girls game got more like the guys game, everyone assumed, and rightfully so, that guy coaches would be more familiar with it. It's a natural domination. Males would be best to take them {girls teams} to the new style {from the six-player game}. Therefore, that made it even harder for women."

She was confident from the start about her abilities. In her interview with the school principal for the job, her attitude was clear. "I said to him, if you're concerned whether or not I have the guts to walk into a boys locker room and confront a problem, don't worry."

James Coles, principal at Wootton for 17 years, appointed Jones. "The only thing I was concerned about was the locker room situation. I didn't feel her being female would hinder her chances of success . . . I felt sometimes perhaps she was outcoached, which any new coach would be . . . that was a result of her being new, not female . . . I had no hesitation about hiring her . . . she's enthusiastic . . . she's done a wonderful job."

Locker room situations haven't been a problem. For away games, the players dress at Wootton, then Jones instructs them, uniforms intact, in the visitors' locker room where the game is to be played. For home games, she simply makes a well-timed entrance for her coaching chores. The only problem, if that, is the extra pressure she has put on herself.

"At first, I felt pressure to prove myself as a woman who could win and send players to the jayvee status," she said. Her team went 6-3 last season. "I don't worry as much about it, but I still do feel that perhaps other males look at me and say maybe a male coach would do better.

"I also feel pressure to win because I'm an ex-athlete. I think if you put on a uniform, you do your best. I feel more connected to the kids because I teach in the building. Many coaches don't teach in their building, but because I do, I feel there's more commitment. I think I personally feel a lot of pressure about performance of athletes, not necessarily winning, but good on-court performance."

Woman coaches aren't in vogue, and probably won't be if current trends continue. But Jones isn't bogged down by the proverbial old-fashioned stereotypes.

"I came from the old school," she said. "Boys with boy teachers; girls with girl teachers. That's been different for a long time. They {players, school staff, parents, fans} are very accepting. My two seasons have been very smooth. Everyone is supportive. My only concern has to do with my responsibility to the athlete."

Her reasoning is simple.

"If a kid wants to play a sport, they will play. They won't evaluate. They deal with issues like fairness, honesty and knowledge. I think freshmen are new and they take what they get. Their enthusiasm is so infectious. If Attila the Hun or Grandma Moses was coaching, they'd still feel the same."

Provided, of course, Ms. Moses had a good offensive strategy.