I’ve noticed that every time my daughters’ come into something new, whether it’s a new team or a new sport, there’s a period of adjustment and of finding their place in the pecking order. During this assessment period, they aren’t feeling very confident. They rely on signals from their coach and teammates to relay to them that they are valued and that they are “good.” It’s an uncomfortable place of insecurity, of being judged, and of not having secure relationships with everyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s an individual sport or a team sport, I’ve noticed. For every new beginning, a player needs support to build her confidence.
Building a Player’s Confidence
There are some crucial fundamentals to establish in order to build a player’s confidence. The first step is to the culture that you create. It’s crucial to create a culture of safety. I, as your coach, can’t help you with your confidence level if you are looking over your shoulder thinking that you might be cut. First and foremost, is making every player feel safe.
How do you, as the coach, create this?
Trust is Number 1
It starts with trust and establishing a relationship with each player based on her as a whole person, not just her skills as an athlete.
Loyalty is Number 2
Loyalty from the coach to the player is the next step. Each player has to feel that the coach is loyal to her and that she is not in danger of getting cut. I’m going to say some tough things to you at times but you have my loyalty. I’m not kicking you out.
It’s crucial to create a culture of safety before you can help a player build confidence.
This goes back to coaching girls versus boys and that girls need a whole person approach to relationships. They need to feel that you and value them as a person, not just a player.
Having dialogue is more powerful than discussion because it implies listening. There are different approaches, for example, to telling a player that she won’t start.
A dialogue approach would be:
“We talked about what to work on these past few weeks and I think you’re working hard on this. I think right now, the combination of people, we have to have a different skill set to get to where we want to be with this team. We’re not giving up on you. You have improved. We want to keep working with you, but right now we are going to start someone else in that position, but with your improvement, we are going to need you to come right off that bench and help out.”
Everyone wants to be needed, so how do you tell the non-starter that she’s needed?
“As the energy goes down in that game, we are going to need all your hard work to get out there with everything that you’ve been working on to make a difference. Because that’s when the game is going to be changed; when you get out there. And I’ve seen it in your training. I’ve seen how much you’ve worked. Starting now or not starting, we don’t want to make that the priority, but when you get in that game, that’s the moment that you’ve worked so hard on your 1 v 1 moves to beat her inside that I know that you are going to be able to get that done in the game.”
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