Coaching female athletes

Today I am writing about a common dilemma that has become an ongoing concern for me and I suspect all coaches who are coaching female athletes. I am referring to the pandemic of low self confidence among young female athletes.

I have worked with numerous female volleyball players both as a sport coach and as a strength coach. One characteristic that the vast majority of them share is a lack of confidence in themselves and in their potential as athletes. This is a societal problem that I do not believe we do a good enough job addressing in the sport community. Although for the most part I don’t know how best to solve it, I recognize that it is a challenge that we must address.

I have had the opportunity to work with many talented, intelligent, attractive, kind young women With considerable potential as athletes and very likely in other personal goals they may have. That being said, when I talk to them about their goals the conversation is always the same. “I’m not good enough to play pro.” “I’d like to play on the national team but that’s impossible.” “I’m not good enough to play CIS.”

On the flip side I have worked with several young men who are only marginally talented, possess limited skill and are of average intelligence and yet they view themselves as hot stuff.

Why is this the case? What is the message that we are sending young females that is causing this? More importantly, who is sending this message and how can we as sport coaches reverse this? A few years ago I was coaching a 16U girls’ volleyball team. My sister, Amanda, was my assistant coach. After a debate about something that is no longer important today she said to me “You know Darrin, you know a lot about volleyball but you need to realize you don’t know very much about being a 16 year old girl.” That was a very powerful statement then and it still is today. I think many male coaches don’t do a good job of communicating with females athletes because they don’t share the perspective of what it is like to be a female athlete.

As coaches, we need to find a better way to help our female athletes achieve real self

confidence and genuine belief in their potential as athletes and people. I believe that, as a general rule, it is important for male coaches of female athletes to have at least one female member on their coaching staff. This would go a long way towards ensuring better communication between athlete and coach. In time male coaches will come to understand the unique challenges and opportunities associated with coaching female athletes.

More and more I don’t see coaching or training athletes as just a way to develop amazing athletes but as a way to develop young women who are confident in themselves and their abilities in the gym, on the court, and in all aspects of their life.

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