When I started playing football as a young girl, I had no idea how far the game would take me.
But what I knew was that I loved it and that I wanted to be a part of it. Yes, there were days that were hard and made me want to quit, but I’m grateful that I didn’t. Whether it has been as a player, an NFL coach, or even getting my doctorate in Sports Psychology, all of the strength and fortitude I needed to succeed came through playing sports.
Sports make girls feel better about themselves!
The sense of accomplishment, feeling of belonging, ability to see their body as an asset, friendships, and fun are all some of the many benefits of sports participation that help increase girls’ confidence on and off the field.
As coaches, teachers and parents, we all have a vital role to play in ensuring our girls get in, and stay in, the game. We want them all to keep playing #LikeAGirl, because sports keep them confident.
Here are my 5 top tips for helping girls stay in the game:
1) MAKE IT FUN!
Focus on the atmosphere first! Being on a team is much more than just playing the sport: friends and fun matter. Many experts talk about focusing on effort rather than outcome, and yes this is part of it, but there is more to the story. Putting in effort can be fun, and so can winning. The truth is when you set the right atmosphere, girls want to be a part of the team, and the team atmosphere will help them do their best!
Example: Playing music in practice creates a fun environment. Also, girls will love if you get in and play too!
2) PRAISE THEIR PROCESS
When you focus on the long term rather than the short term, bumps in the road don’t seem so big. Outcome is not in anyone’s control, so why praise that? Why not praise the steps that lead to success instead – like working hard, never giving up, and trying different techniques. The key is to focus on long term development rather than short term outcome.
Example: Be personal and be constructive. Build them up. Instead of saying “good job”, say “Jenny, you were unstoppable out there. Your hustle was impressive.”
3) HELP THEM BECOME FRIENDS
For girls, the social aspects of sports are an essential aspect of participation. Girls often put relationships first – if they are forced to choose friends or sports, unfortunately sports often lose out. Encourage the friendships among the girls on your team, and create opportunities for them to include their friends from outside the team. Not only will you attract new athletes, but you will be more likely to keep the ones you have.
Example: Hold an open training session where team members can bring their friends along who are interested in learning more about your sport.
4) GIVE THEM OWNERSHIP OF THE TEAM
The more girls feel like they have a voice on the team, the more they will feel like they belong on the team, and in the game. Let them make decisions about the team and encourage the sense of belonging by having them choose a team name or logo, name the play calls, make up a team chant or choose a team song. Look for creative ways to tap into your players’ talents, and individuality, on and off the field!
Example: If one of the players on your team loves to draw, have her design the team logo. Even if she’s not the strongest player, guess what – her contribution to the team just became essential!
5) SHOW UP AND CHEER LOUDLY!
For girls to value sport, we need to value them playing sport. When 7 out of 10 girls tell us that they feel society doesn’t encourage them to play sports, it paints a clear opportunity for each of us to be part of changing that perception. They have to know that we are with them, we love to watch them play and that we will cheer them on win, or lose. Consistently being at the game to support them is one of the most important things you can do as a role model.
Example: Your engagement is key! At the start of each season, enter each game into your calendar as ‘non-negotiable’.
As a coach, teacher or parent you play a unique and vital role, not just in helping girls participate in sports, but ensuring the benefits of their participation extend into their lives, well beyond the final whistle on the field. So get out there and hustle! Together, we can help girls keep playing #Like AGirl!
See the #LIkeAGirl toolkit for more downloadable tips and resources for coaches, teachers and parents.
This is the second post in our Confidence Stories series in partnership with Always®. Confidence Stories features stories, tips and ideas for supporting girls and building confidence.
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