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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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!