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FAQ: Coaching female athletes

Our live webinar series, Coaching Female Athletes, ignited great discussion. We felt it would be an disservice not to share some of the questions we received  from coaches that attended the webinar. The questions below highlight some of the biggest challenges that our coaches are facing in coaching their female athletes and the answers that Lindsey gave in our live webinar. 


Q: "Our players are very committed academically. This creates a healthy tension. How can I encourage my players to invest themselves completely while we are all in the gym?"-Coach Rich Aubrey

  A: The really good news is that if your players are driven academically, they likely respond well to clear goals and measurements (like getting an A on a test). So you’ve got some good stuff to work with. But perhaps they aren’t naturally bringing that same mentality into practice. So you will have to create that for them.

In the Coaches Guide to Achieving Great Practices, we break down a 3-step process to create those expectations and measurements that are so critical to progress in any endeavor. In addition, the BRAVR visualization technique (which is included in the Coaches Guide) we teach is so helpful for athletes to get focused-it gives them time to leave school work (or personal things) aside for a few hours and gives them a clear picture of what they are working on in practice. This exercise alone can be the difference between an athlete that is just ‘there’ and an athlete that is at practice with a specific goal in mind.  

Q: "My team really shows up and competes during the regular season, but then doesn't seem to be at the right competitive level during post-season. How do you get them to the optimal level of performance without putting too much pressure on the outcome of winning?" -Coach Patti Hoelzle

  A: There are two main problems we see a lot around competition. One is that athletes, teams, and coaches treat competition as different from practice in the wrong way. That is, athletes try to ‘get up’ for games but don’t bring that same level of focus or excitement to practice. Therefore their emotions (and chemicals in their brain) are totally different than what they are used to. Not a good way to go into competition.

The second issue is that athletes, coaches and teams treat different opponents differently. There is no game that is bigger than any other- one can easily lose to an inferior opponent because of a lack of focus or not taking it seriously. Competition is competition, which is an opportunity to challenge oneself.

One of the best ways to ensure this stability of mind is to have consistent routines in and around competition. Every game should be treated exactly the same. Sometimes that consists of getting your team ‘pumped’ to play a team that they think is inferior, sometimes that consists of being more relaxed going into a high pressure game. When we start changing our routines to fit the situation, we get in trouble because then we are being led around by circumstances and emotion instead of our training.

Our entire Competition Mastery program is based around the routines that athletes need pre-competition, during competition and post-competition. 

Q: "What steps could be taken if a clique of 2-3 players starts to impact team chemistry?" -Coach Mike Hubiki

  A: There are two reasons this is happening- one is the social or external reason, the other is the internal.

First the social and cultural reason. I think the first step with any behavior problems on a team is to ask yourself: why is this behavior being allowed? If you haven’t established core values or expectations of behavior, it’s very easy for individuals (or 3) to decide for themselves what is acceptable behavior. And once they get away with that behavior once, they certainly aren’t going to self-correct. So my first question is, what is going in with the culture of the program that this has been allowed to happen, and how can you correct it? Correcting it might mean starting from scratch and doing some workshops on core values (we are creating a guide for this so be on the look out for that in the near future).

Secondly, I’ve been on teams where this behavior has happened and I’ve been on teams where this would never have been allowed to happen. And the difference between those teams was the expectations of behavior as I stated above AND everyone’s internal self-confidence. When individuals are insecure, they try to take down other people, they get jealous and they sabotage other’s success. My guess is, these 2-3 players don’t feel very good about themselves on the inside and it’s coming out in a very ugly way. We have a lot of resources to help athletes with self-improvement but I think the best one for building up self-confidence is our self-talk training.  

Q: "I may be bringing up as many as 4 freshmen into a varsity volleyball team, a number of upperclassmen may be replaced by freshmen and sophomores. How do I prevent issues from developing as a result of that?" -Coach Michael Lopez

  A: I believe that a lot of issues come up on teams when the individuals don’t feel needed. We talked a lot about female athletes being motivated by the ‘we’ and in this case, your upperclassmen might respond well to a new role if it’s clearly laid out for them. If you can articulate the following to them, it will help them feel like their role is crucial to the good of the group (which it is):

  • What do you need from them outside of playing time and statistics? Communicate this to them.
  • Can you galvanize them to take a freshman under their wing and mentor them? If so, give them clear direction and let them know this is a BIG role that will impact your team.
  • Ask them directly if you can you count on them to be unselfish and do what the team needs? Likely they’ll say yes now but constant check-ins during the season will be crucial to keep up their motivation.

Q: "I struggle with getting girls to "care" about losing. They don't have that "killer instinct". Any tips on getting them to be more aggressive-minded?" -Coach Nichole Trudeau

  A: While it’s a big generalization, girls do not grow up with the same physicality and aggressive contact with each other as boys do. It’s really important that female athletes get a lot of this exposure in practice. Drills have to be very competitive, with clear winners and losers, and even in non-contact sports, I believe aggression is best taught with physical contact.

Not having a killer instinct is just a front for fear-based self-sabotage. Your athletes probably are scared to care too much about winning or losing because it hurts to lose. This goes back to what we talked about in the webinar- failure is a really important way to build up confidence, but many young girls get caught in the ‘good girl’ trap that perfectionism is the goal. This can be paralyzing. While you don’t want to have them constantly fail, a little bit can be a healthy way for them to learn that it’s okay, it’s part of getting better.  

Find this article helpful?

You have taken the first step in understanding the way your female athletes operate to help them better achieve their potential! In addition, we feel that one of the single greatest things you can do as a coach is to provide them with the tools to help them build confidence and eliminate self-sabotaging behaviors. We strongly suggest incorporating positive self-talk. At Positive Performance, we've created an exciting new Self-Talk training series!  Follow this link to learn more about how self-talk can change the lives of you and your athletes!

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