Kara Lynn Joyce I 3X USA Olympic Swimmer & 4X Medalist


Kara Lynn Joyce, a three-time USA Olympic swimmer who competed in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics for Team USA, won a total of four medals. As a swimmer for the University of Georgia, Joyce won 18 NCAA titles and set the American Record in the 50-yard and 50-short-course-meter freestyle.

In 2017, Kara founded the LEAD Sports Summit for teenage girl athletes. The LEAD Company’s mission is to empower and educate female athletes and coaches, providing them with skills in leadership, confidence, nutrition, sports psychology and athletic development.

Over the last 4 years, the Lead Company has grown from not only a yearly event, but an online community and academy. The Lead Sports Academy is the home base for teenage girl athletes, coaches and parents with comprehensive online courses in Leadership, Confidence, Sports Psychology and more.

Watch our “Building Confidence” webinar with Kara Lynn Joyce now.


The following is an excerpt from Kara Lynn Joyce’s recent webinar.

Keys to coaching girls: There are several techniques coaches can use to help women and girls approach every game with confidence, drive and competitiveness, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

First, let’s talk about the difference between men’s and women’s brains. Men’s brains tend to be described as boxes; the boxes don’t overlap and never touch. They can only think about one thing at one time and or think about nothing. As women, we would love to turn off our minds, but our brains are described as a ball of wire and everything is connected so when we have a thought, it’s like dominos falling. We go deep and we go complex. For example, a softball player during a game will not only be thinking about scoring homeruns, but also about her homework and the relationships she has going on at that moment. What makes us more complex is that this ball of wire is connected to emotions. The only way we can keep balanced is to express our emotions. When we express those emotions, we regain balance. So, what can we learn from this? Women are very different but as women, we are so often expected to think like men. We, as women, don’t need to be ashamed of how our brains work; we offer a different perspective that guys don’t have. Our thoughts, though they are different, are valuable and important. We need to focus less on what others think, even though we, as women, are hardwired to do this. Sometimes, this keeps us from what is best for us. We need to remember to do what is best for us and not to worry about what other people think.

As coaches, we need to focus on building confidence in female athletes. One way we can do this is by building positive, one-on-one relationships. Work on developing relationships with your players on and off the court or field. When there is a need for feedback, focus on giving that feedback in private and not publicly. Confidence is fostered through growth in self-belief and overall relationship growth rather than on outcome or performance. Below, I have included some helpful tips on building confidence within your athletes.

  1. As women, we love to chat. If you are a head coach and are not very talkative, make sure to focus on loosening up, as most female athletes need communication; they crave advice and are always looking to improve. Create one-on-one sessions with each player where you can set goals and discuss areas of improvement, as well as check in on things they may be dealing with outside of the gym or field. These don’t have to be weekly, but just a few times throughout the season can truly help your players’ confidence.
  2. Start and end practice with an attainable drill. Help your athletes get focused with a drill that they can reach so they can finish practice on a high note; this can help improve their confidence.
  3. Be specific with your feedback. When you give feedback to the large group, make sure you are specific with your feedback, using names and specific examples in the play. Blanket feedback can, in some cases, lead all the girls to feel they are to blame.
  4. Don’t yell; be thoughtful. Yelling or being animated does not always motivate. In most cases, it makes the athlete feel they have failed and let you down. As women, we hate disappointing. A better approach is to give clear and direct feedback, but not to attack. We crave advice and want to improve. Overall, we want to feel connected to you as our coach; you are the person who believes in our skills and trusts in our abilities.
  5. Don’t tell your athletes to “not think about it.” As women, it is impossible for us to “think about nothing.” As discussed earlier, that is not how our brains are wired. Help your athletes to channel their thinking by focusing on things they can control during their game or envisioning the way they plan to play.
  6. Inspire the next generation. If something looks interesting and fun, you will get buy-in. If you can create an environment that is inviting, brings happiness, encourages hard work and competitiveness, you’ll inspire them.

Overall, as coaches of female athletes, it is imperative to understand that they will not ever be men. Instead of asking them to think like a man, let’s focus on shifting how we coach and play to their many strengths. Once we learn what is needed for our female athletes to be successful and confident, we will become successful coaches.

Watch more of our “Building Confidence” webinar with Kara Lynn Joyce now.