Much like our male counterparts, women are competitive, hard-working, and driven to succeed, both on and off the court or field. However, there’s one very big difference: women lack confidence.
We often doubt if we’re good enough and stop ourselves from reaching our full potential. It’s up to us as coaches to structure practice and games with strategies that encourage self-belief—so we can help the women and young girls on our teams be successful in athletics and beyond. We can’t be derailed by what I call “Mind Monsters”, things that can go wrong.
As a former athlete myself, here’s my take on why girls lack self-confidence.
Women and young girls go through many changes, especially during middle and high school. These physical and mental changes can frequently lead to thoughts of embarrassment. Girls often worry about the way they look on the court and about feeling judged by onlookers. Their hair, uniform, weight, acne, talent level, fitness and more can all affect their self-perception and cause them to feel self-conscious. Whether you’re a male or female coach, it’s important to be aware that any of these thoughts could be going on in your athletes’ heads because in most cases, they won’t tell you themselves. Or, they just feel that they are not a good as some others and it can take you to a dark place of embarrassment, feat and loss of confidence.
Fear of Failing
Most people choose to stay in their comfort zone rather than stepping out of it. Why? Because we fear failure and don’t want to risk being laughed at or ridiculed. As coaches of female athletes, we have to encourage girls to leave their bubbles, even if they’re afraid to take the shot or that they might fail. It’s up to us to offer the support they need, to assure them they’ll be ok and to teach them that failing at something doesn’t define who they are. Only through failure can we learn and develop, and we cannot move forward in life without occasionally experiencing it. Failure is noble, it means you tried.
Feeling Like an Imposter
Many women often experience a sense of “being in the wrong place” because they don’t feel like they belong. This feeling can be extremely detrimental. We may realize we’re talented in certain areas, but it’s difficult for us to understand that we have the potential to be the best. As coaches, we need to push women and young girls to see their full potential.
Below are a few strategies to help increase women’s confidence in sports:
First and foremost, this must be taught and shared daily with female athletes. The only difference between a good day and a bad day is our “Attitude and Belief”. We must teach that our internal drive, our determination and resilience will help us rise to levels we have never thought possible. Developing a mindset skill will ignite the greatness within a person.
Women crave advice and attention, particularly when they’re looking to improve. Organize one-on-one sessions with each player and talk through your expectations, help them set realistic goals and discuss areas of improvement. Remember to make it a conversation and not an interview. Talk about life outside your sport and be sure to have these dialogues frequently.
Start and End Practice with Positive Reinforcement
Start each practice session with “Facts of the Day” or let them discuss what happened in their day. This will help get their heads in the right place and build up their confidence going into practice.
Repetition and Persistence
Everything is hard the first time we do it. As women, we tend to practice something over and over so we can feel more confident about our skills. But as coaches, we need to be patient and realize that repetition is imperative to our players’ self-assurance. Eventually, their hard work and persistent training will lead to greater self-confidence overall. Self-confidence is a belief in you. If you have worked hard you will see improvement. You will love and believe and you before others do!
Fact: most girls don’t like to be yelled at and are more inclined to feel like they failed their team and let you down as a coach when you do. Instead, try to speak clearly and directly, offering them the advice and connection they crave. While showing passion is important, try to communicate in a way that builds confidence in your players, even when offering constructive criticism. Women/Guys have to let stuff go. People talk and communicate in different ways. Everyone’s tone is not going to be the same. “Let it go!”