Does She Believe She Will Be Successful?

After coaching girls' softball for over a dozen years I have found the female athlete to be amazingly determined, wildly passionate, fiercely loyal yet emotionally fragile.

This emotional fragility is heightened by parents and coaches who don't understand the uniqueness of the female athlete.

A young woman's self-esteem, self-image and self-beliefs need to be nurtured and respected, particularly as athletes in a game as difficult emotionally as fastpitch softball can be.

For an adolescent female athlete her self-belief on the field is everything. I marvel at how many players I see, work with and coach have issues with their self-confidence. I have come to realize that it's just not easy being a young woman in a world obsessed with physical perfection and often expectations for flawless behavior.

In truth your athlete or team will only go as for in their skill development and on the field performance as they believe they will. These often limiting self-beliefs can greatly impact her motivation and desire, for if she really doesn't believe she is good enough why is all that extra work really worth it?

On the field I witness an epidemic of "self-doubt;" athletes afraid of making mistakes for fear of letting down parents, coaches, teammates and self. I see so many young ladies searching for their identity on the diamond and having to cope with the inevitable emotional roller coaster ride that fastpitch is.

Then I see parents, usually Dad's, and coaches berating an athlete or her entire team after a mistake or poor game and I cringe knowing the damaging they are doing to their athletes' self-esteem and self-confidence.

In the world of sports psychology it's called "self-efficacy;" one's belief in their ability to perform a task successfully. From psychologist Albert Bandura:

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

--View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
--Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
--Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
--Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments

People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:

--Avoid challenging tasks
--Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
--Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
--Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities

So how can you help your athlete or team to build up this self-efficacy, the self-belief that "she can" be successful?

1. Support her and nurture her self-esteem, confidence and sense of self; particularly after a tough day on the field (or classroom).

2. Suspend your judgments, criticisms and need to be right around her. Step into her shoes and her world for a few minutes. I assure you that the amount of pressure she feels today in ALL areas of her life to excel is far greater than you experienced at her age.

3. Respect and honor her for her effort, her talent, her loyalty, her love for her teammates and the game.

4. Listen. As adults (yes I am often guilty of this with my daughter) we feel the need to talk too much when often all our daughters want us to do is put our arm around her and listen!

5. Continue to challenge her limiting self-beliefs and always encourage her to get better on the field (as in every area of her life). Start seeing her as having unlimited potential for greatness and watch her start to believe the same.

In truth the greatest gift we can give our daughters and those young ladies that we coach is the gift of confidence that propels their self-esteem, self-worth and their own belief that they can do anything they set their minds to in a sometimes difficult world!

Thanks for reading. --John


Top 10 Lessons You Don’t Want Your Athlete To Learn!

After finishing 11 tournaments in 12 weeks in various venues around the country in June and July one sad truth I saw that continues to plague the great sport of softball is bad behavior by both parents and coaches.

This bad behavior is damaging to your athlete, her team, and the organization. It cheapens the game in front of parents, other teams and college coaches.

So, here are 10 lessons you absolutely do not want your athlete to learn while on the softball field:

1. Not playing when a college coach is there to watch. I saw this in Colorado and I couldn’t believe it. The coach knew the athlete had a coach coming to scout her and he still did not play her in a meaningless pool game. Unforgivable! (The lesson: “My coach doesn’t care about me.”)

2. Putting a single athlete above the team. You know, “It’s all about my kid…scr** the team.” Pointing out your athletes statistics compared to her teammates.This kind of selfishly is becoming more and more prevalent. (The lesson: “I matter more than my teammates, and my stats define me.”)

3. Ripping your players. I saw this every weekend…coaching yelling and belittling their players. Really? You expect female athletes to respect and play hard for you when you embarrass them and rip into their confidence? These teams were usually eliminated early in the tournament. I wonder why? (The lesson: “My ego as a coach is more important than how you feel or how you play.”)

4. Bad mouthing coaches in front of everyone. I realize national tournaments mean more $$ spent, but rein in the emotional outbursts and act like an adult. If you don’t like the coach or his/her strategy then change teams at the end of the season. Just don’t poison the well DURING a tournament. Also understand there are game and tournament strategies you don’t understand that involve how a roster is utilized. (The lesson: “I never need to respect my coaches because my parents think they’re idiots.”)

5. Talking to college coaches. College coaches do not want to (and, in many cases, are forbidden by NCAA rules) talk to parents about their kids. Give them room and let your coaches and official team representative speak with them. Pimping your kid really only hurts her chances. College coaches know you embellish the truth, so back off. (The lesson: “My parents embarrass me in front of the coaches.”)

6. Quitting on your team. I saw it a few times whereby a player wasn’t getting playing time at Nationals and the parent pulled their kid, packed up and went home. Or, after approaching the coach about it the coach cut the kid. Yikes…can’t we all just get along! (The lesson: “I don’t have to honor my commitments because it’s all about me.”)

7. Being habitually late to games. There always seems to be one or two kids on a team that ALWAYS show up late to pre-game warm ups. Why? Plan it out, use Google maps or your cell GPS. Set the alarm earlier. Do whatever it takes. Don’t make your coaches have two sets of rules for the team. (The lesson: “It doesn’t matter if I’m late.”)

8. Talking to your athlete DURING the game. This is a major “no-no” in my book. Give her plenty of water or Gatorade BEFORE the game. Do not approach the dugout to talk about the game. I even saw a mom walk right into the dugout during the game to give her kid nachos. Seriously? Let the coaches coach, and the players play. You can do your mom or dad thing AFTER the game is over. (The lesson: “I don’t have to follow team rules, nor do I have to grow up!”)

9. Hopping teams. I see (back to the “me first” myopic mentality) too many players changing teams each season without a legitimate reason. In truth the green isn’t always greener. With the explosion of travel/club softball comes elevated competition to recruit players. Many coaches will tell you exactly what you want to hear so beware. Not to mention hopping teams yanks your athlete from friends and a comfort zone she may have been thriving in. The one caveat to this is a truly bad situation, in which leaving is the logical option (The lesson: “My princess deserves better because she is the best player on the team.” translation to the athlete: “My parents don’t trust me to succeed on this team. They just keep pushing me. I don’t want to change teams again. I like it here.”)

10. Yelling at umpires. Man, at national tournaments this was at epidemic levels this summer! Please honor the game and respect all those who make it happen: coaches, umpires, the opponent and every player on your athlete’s team. (The lesson: “I don’t need to respect the umpires, and I can always blame them for my failures.”)