3 Tips for Boosting Self Confidence in Your Softball Player

It has been said, over and over again “Girls need to feel good to play good,” where as boys “Need to play good to feel good.”

And for many fastpitch parents and coaches, and girls – one of the biggest obstacles to success is self-doubt, or a lack of self-confidence or insecurity. The question therein becomes, how can I get my daughter or players to have more confidence in themselves on the ballfield? 

The first and foremost thing for EVERYONE to recognize, is that self-confidence and esteem is a CONSTANT work in progress. It’s a life’s work! It’s not something that is broken and suddenly fixed. Being confident, believing in yourself, having good self-esteem is something that most of us adults deal with as well.

Its frustrating to see a young girl with so much talent and attributes get down on herself, or be paralyzed at the plate because she thinks everyone is looking at her. But given time, and some careful attention – the softball venue is the PERFECT place to help a girl BUILD CONFIDENCE! In fact, one of the most positive, scientifically proven things about involvement in team sports is that it IS A CONFIDENCE BOOSTER! And self-confidence and self-esteem for young girls can be a life changer.

I can remember a little girl of 7 years old who was a complete introvert. Who wouldn’t talk to strangers, or anyone for that matter. In school she was shy – almost to the point that she appeared rude to those who didn’t understand her. She had a hard time making friends with other girls. It seemed as if she would never break out of her shell. And then, her parents signed her up to play softball. Today, at 12 – this girl is a rock star on the field – and while still shy and introverted, she found literally herself among the brick-dust and chalk lines. The changes that one game, one sport, one activity made in her life were so immense that they can hardly be measured in words.

So how do you do it? How do you help a girl find herself, and believe in herself? How do you boost self-confidence to improve her game?  We all know that just because WE believe in our athletes, just because WE see their talent and ability, even though WE see how amazing they are – it doesn’t automatically equate to HER feeling the same way about herself. Truth is, it’s something she has to find for herself. Hopefully the following tips will help.

As a side note, remember this. Your number one job as a parent is to not to fix everything for your kid. It’s to raise a daughter who will grow into a young woman who knows how to solve her own problems and overcome obstacles.

1. As an adult, one of the most important things to boost self-confidence in our daughters is to drop the natural, over-protective veil of parenting where you want to keep your daughter safe, protect her from everything bad, and save her from disappointment or hurt feelings. Oh, this is very difficult to do – when you see your daughter struggling with a personal barrage of negative thoughts that impacts her performance – the parental urge is to barge in, assert yourself, remind her awesome she is and to tell her with a boiled hint of frustration “YOU CAN DO THIS for Gods Sakes – Just do it!” When you see her miss a ball, strike out, or lose her cool on the field – the first reaction, the most natural one, is to comfort, reassure, PROTECT and SAVE! However, while counter-intuitive, the BEST thing we can do is let our daughter know that we trust her and have faith! Don’t rush from your seat to pat her on the back and give her hug. Let her work it out with herself and her teammates and her coach. Sometimes, the pressure from parents, coaches – even though well-meaning and helpful, makes ‘the thing’ that she is struggling with become like the metaphorical elephant in the room. Now, not only is she worried about letting herself, her teammates and her coach down, but she is worried about letting her parents down. While its hard to watch “IT” happening – blow her a kiss, resist your urge to swipe her up in your arms, pull a lollipop out of your bag – and carry on.

So what is the solution?  Allow her to OWN her performance, whether good or bad. It would be really cool if we knew what these kids were thinking, but we don’t. But when we hand over the game to them – allow it to be THEIRS, and stay behind them with blankets of faith and understanding that they can warm up in LATER, they feel trusted. Empowered.

Nothing wrong with reminding your daughter that she can do this, but the tendency when our kids are struggling is to talk about IT too much. “You’ll get this,” “Give yourself time,” “I think you did better today than yesterday,” in a nonchalant manner. Don’t over-talk about it. (Same with a hitters slump – you NEVER want to jabber on and on about it.)

If she has an emotional breakdown on the field, remain calm and collected. After the waves of panic and fear subside, ask her what she was feeling in that moment. And instead of saying ‘you should,” or “you need,” or “you HAVE to,” do  such and such – ASK HER what she wants to do next time. When she owns the problem and the solution, she will gain more confidence when she finally has that break through! If you try to do it for her, it will belong to you, rather than her. Be the foundation – but not the walls that hold her up.

2.  Emotions! Girls have long been accused of being emotional beings. Truth is, there is NOTHING wrong with emotions! PASSION FOR LIFE IS BORN OUT OF EMOTIONS!

There IS something wrong with holding emotions back in fear of being judged. Our emotions can play a huge part in our success, especially when you learn to channel them. If your daughter is emotional, rather than order her to stop crying, stop being a baby, stop whining, stop beating yourself up – help her channel that energy into something positive. Teach her how to turn emotions into determination, rather than use them to wallow in self-doubt. Ask her, “So you are upset that you missed that ball, or struck out. NOW WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”  That is a powerful statement, that puts HER in control, and reminds her that SHE, and SHE alone is in charge of what she does with her emotions. Never negate the fact that she feels these emotions strongly – as they are normal and natural. But do remind her that she decides how SHE wants to react to them. She can use them to do something positive, or she can use them to hold herself under the waters of self-doubt.  One of the beautiful things about female athletes is that they aren’t intimidated by emotions, or conditioned to pretend they don’t exist. And these emotions can be powerful assets once they learn how to control them.

3. Don’t settle for excuses. Don’t make excuses. It is what it is. Life has good days and bad days. They happen, and they don’t define us in one day. Plus, down deep, your daughter doesn’t want you to constantly make excuses. Sometimes OWNING up to “Hey today was not your day,” is better than making any or every excuse for why things happened. Excuses simply take away accountability, and your daughters POWER TO MAKE THINGS BETTER.  Excuses, like :

It was so hot today. You are on your period. You don’t feel good. Well, this or that isn’t fair. You have never played outfield. That pitcher was so fast, she probably didn’t belong in this age group. The coach hurt your feelings. The other girls were being mean to you. Those parents and their cowbell were awful. SO and so should have caught that ball. The umpires made a mistake, or were FOR the other team. That other coach messed you up. Your team hasn’t practiced all week. 

Just accept whatever happens – learn from it, don’t rehash it, and MOVE ONWARD.  There will always be good days and bad days at the ballpark. But even a bad day at the ballpark is better than a day anywhere else, right?

Most importantly, give your daughter time. She will grow into herself. Stay the course, be supportive, stay positive, be careful with your own anger and frustration – and the day will come when you will see her maturing and her self-esteem growing. In fact, you will look back one day and realize just how far she has come. IF she can play THIS GAME – SHE CAN DO ANYTHING!

 

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