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Building Confidence in Young Female Athletes

Building Confidence in Young Female Athletes

I am about halfway through finishing my print book on physical and mental training for youth female athletes of all sports. I am so excited to release this heart-filled body of work, and more excited that it will be in everyone’s hands.

Though I’ve enjoyed writing the Total Youth Soccer Fitness eBooks, I feel a physical form book will be far more impactful for young girls.

I’m still trying to come up with a title, so if you have any suggestions, I’m happy to hear yours.

So far, here are some titles I’m playing around with:

Strong Queens: A Female Athlete Guide for Improved Performance, Injury Prevention, and Confidence

The Strong Female Athlete: Improve Performance, Reduce Injury, Boost Confidence

Building the Strong Female Athlete: Mental and Physical Training

And that’s about all I got. I’ll be heading to the beach this weekend to spend time near the water so I can get my creativity flowing. In the mean time, feel free to message your ideas, or let me know which title you like the most. <– I’ll give you credit if I use your idea when the book is published.

This body of work will be a science and experience based book on training the young female athlete, growth and maturation, early sampling vs. early specialization, ACL prevention training, managing the menstrual cycle, optimizing recovery, nourishing with proper nutrition, participating in positive self talk, navigating comparison, handling teammate jealousy and gossip, feeling confident, and living a purposeful life.

Each chapter will be filled with research as well as funny personal stories and witty remarks.  My hope is to make this body of work informative, yet engaging, and more interesting than all the mundane female athlete academic books out there. Oddly enough, there’s only a meager few print books on youth female athlete training. While they’re excellent books, they’re so academic and the science jargon gets painful after a while, especially for coaches, parents and girls.

My goal is to make this a simplified academic book, with a sprinkle of exuberance and wholehearted emotion.

To give you a sneak peek, here is an excerpt from my Mental Training chapter:

Coaching female athletes has been one of the most rewarding pursuits of my life. What has made me the most over-joyed with my clients hasn’t been the college recruiting and academic success stories.

Though those have been impressive accomplishments, I recognize they were the most finite. Many coaches would attribute their career success to how many college or professional female athletes they produced, or how many wins and championships they had.

On my end, the greatest success I have had as a coach was inspiring girls to love movement and feel confident in their body and minds’ strengthening capabilities to handle any adversity in life.

I’ve learned that strength training in the gym is the ultimate confidence booster. Putting the body through high amounts of stimulus, adapting and overcoming them to become stronger is downright magical.

There have been numerous occasions girls came into my facility and upon initial evaluation, they couldn’t do a single Pull-Up. After several months of training consistently, they were able to bang out not just a body weight Pull-Up, but one with added load.

They witnessed how malleable the human body is, and how it can build incredible strength with consistent effort and commitment to training.

I want girls to remember how magical they are.

Society pushes how much there is wrong with their bodies – too skinny, too weak, too big, too muscular – but I want to show them how much is right with their bodies.

Society pushes how much there is wrong with their bodies - too skinny, too weak, too big, too muscular - but I want to show them how much is right with their bodies. Click To Tweet

This is the first step to improving confidence – to first understand that the body and mind are powerful machines capable of limitless potential.

Confidence is a Muscle

Over the years in my coaching career, the one thing that parents always asked of me was to help with their girl’s confidence.

Female athletes need to be believed in above all else.

Whether this is from their trainers and coaches, or parents, they need to be reminded of their strengths. In a world that tries to tear them down and distract them, they need the consistent affirmation that they have so many gems to offer.

They need to be told that they are strong, fast, resilient, powerful and so much more. They need to be pushed to work on themselves repeatedly.

Confidence is a muscle.

It isn’t developed from a single session with a private trainer. It isn’t bolstered by one day of journaling. It isn’t improved by watching a motivational video. It’s improved by relentless inner self work.

Confidence isn’t developed from a single session with a private trainer. It isn’t bolstered by one day of journaling. It isn’t improved by watching a motivational video. It's improved by relentless inner self work. Click To Tweet

What are girls doing the other hours of the day? Are they spending their time engaging in negative self-talk? Are they looking around at what others are doing? Are they taking inventory of their lives and working on the areas they can improve?

Confidence becomes unshakeable when girls see it as a lifetime pursuit. Just like strengthening the hips, the core, and the upper body, female athletes need to commit to confidence training daily.

Sure, I can give them all the positive affirmations and words of encouragement as a coach, but if girls are going home and bringing themselves down and resorting back to toxic mental habits, I become useless.

While I love reminding girls of their strengths, it’s dangerous for them to outsource their confidence only to me. This takes them out of their power and enables co-dependent behavior. Rather, I don’t want girls to depend on others for their own happiness and fulfillment but push them to find it in themselves.

True confidence building happens when girls are relentlessly consistent with these basics:

– Participating in positive self-talk
– Journaling their strengths and skills (are they fast, strong, aggressive, creative, skilled?)
– Writing a list of what they off the world besides their sport talents (are they good teammates, good friends, motivating to others, kind?)
– Being mindful of when they are comparing and being jealous, and shifting the focus back on the themselves
– Doing this that bring them joy (leisure, less social media, time with friends)
– Surrounding herself with friends who support her mission
– Getting rid of the drama and gossip friend group
that is wearing her down
– Meditating or spending time to be silent

A coach isn’t a solution to her confidence issues. They’re just a facilitator.

The young female athlete needs to take charge of her mental training and train it like a muscle and have an insatiable desire to do so.

Perfectionism Is A Myth

A lot of young girls are afraid of making mistakes, and I totally get it because they want to fit in, prove themselves, and make their coaches and parents proud.

However, they need to be rooted in reality: mistakes are inevitable. They’re going to happen if a girl is in sport and living on planet Earth.

Even the athletes at the highest level make mistakes. Messi has missed penalty kicks. Alex Morgan hasn’t finished every goal scoring opportunity. Kobe hasn’t made every free throw.

There’s solace in knowing that perfectionism is a myth, and no one can make it through life with a clean slate.

There’s solace in knowing that perfectionism is a myth, and no one can make it through life with a clean slate. Click To Tweet

All girls are going to make mistakes, face challenges, and have a handful of “oh crap!” moments.

When it comes to overcoming the perfectionist trap, I look to Stoic philosophy.

“A gem cannot be polished without friction,” Seneca says.

To accomplish success, girls must fully immerse themselves in a storm of high and lows because success is never linear.

Straight lines are boring, aren’t they?

If girls are going through life turning, curving, falling, rising, oscillating, they’re doing themselves a service. Mistakes are learning curves to greater successes.

What kills me about perfectionism is it stagnates female athletes. Imagine a world if everyone waited for the right moment, or worse yet, if no one took risks. Sports would lack color and vibrancy because no one would ever try to take on a defender, or try a dazzling move, or rocket that shot from half field, or take a chance at a three point shot.

With risks, mistakes can happen, and that is okay.

To put things into perspective, a mistake is so trivial as humans spin around on planet Earth in the middle of a vast galaxy.

They’re just a blip in time.

Psychologist Carol Dweck speaks about the “Growth Mindset” as a tool for people to use when failures do happen. People with a growth mindset see failure as an opportunity to learn, view criticism as constructive, see taking risks and trying new things as tools for building competence and confidence, and determine their abilities by their effort and attitude.
Mistakes need to be embraced.

That’s when the creativity is birthed, and the magic happens. Moreover, overcoming one mistake at a time raises a female athlete’s confidence threshold and she gains more and more confidence each time she gets a reward from her risk.

Comparison and Jealousy are Unproductive

I was bullied a lot as a teenage athlete.

On my travel soccer team at the time, I was a player that scored the most, played the most minutes, and got the most recognition. Alas, with great strength, comes great hate.

I had one hater, a teammate of mine, who bullied me and said things like “you think you’re hot sh*t!” and “you’re not that good” and “you’re just the coach’s favorite” and “you don’t deserve to start over me.” She said things that berated my talents so she could build herself up. The bullying went on for several months, and while there were glimpses of me feeling defeated by her comments, I decided to take the high road and continue to do what made me successful: focus on myself.

The truth is female athletes can’t control what others say. If someone is jealous, that is on them, and it reflects their own insecurities as well as an attempt to cover up their shortcomings.

The truth is female athletes can’t control what others say. If someone is jealous, that is on them, and it reflects their own insecurities as well as an attempt to cover up their shortcomings. Click To Tweet

Anytime a teammate is jealous, and a female athlete gives it attention, it takes her away from her power. I urge girls to come back to what they can control: their habits, their training, their self-improvement.

Even during my college career, I had to refocus back to myself constantly. Being on a team with a roster of 35 was immensely competitive, and each year I refused to give up my starting spot and playing minutes. Sure, I was nervous as new, talented freshmen entered the program, but I used those nerves as fuel train hard in the off-season.

I urge female athletes to tackle jealousy and comparison with bringing the focus back to self. They must focus on mastering their craft first.

It’s far more productive and empowering.

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GET MY TOTAL YOUTH SOCCER FITNESS EBOOK HERE FOR SPEED, STRENGTH AND AGILITY DRILLS AND SAMPLE PROGRAMS

 

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