She’s Got Game: How to Empower Your Young Athlete’s Inner Strength

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Female athletes face unique challenges and pressures in sports, especially regarding self-confidence and self-esteem. As a coach, parent, or mentor, you play an instrumental role in empowering the young female athletes in your life. Building up their confidence and helping them develop inner strength sets them up for success both on and off the field.

In this guide, we’ll explore three key strategies to instill confidence in your female athletes:

1. Encourage focus on self-improvement over comparison

2. Foster a supportive and empowering community

3. Promote positive body image and acceptance Confidence affects performance.

Female athletes are more likely to reach their potential when they believe in themselves and their abilities. By implementing the tips in this guide, you can help the young women you mentor build the self-assurance they need to give their all in their sport and feel proud of their accomplishments. Read on to learn how to empower your female athletes to succeed.

Encourage Her to Focus on Self-Improvement

One of the most powerful ways to build confidence in a young female athlete is to encourage her to focus on self-improvement rather than comparing herself to others. This means praising and reinforcing effort and a positive attitude, rather than just natural talent or winning. Set process-oriented goals with her that are within her control, like improving a skill or fitness level, rather than focusing solely on competitive outcomes she can't control. Teach her a growth mindset by emphasizing that abilities can be developed through practice and hard work. Help her view setbacks as opportunities to learn. Praise her when she demonstrates grit and resilience in pursuing meaningful goals.

The keys are to recognize her daily progress, reinforce her self-belief, and teach her that results come from how hard she works. This fosters long-term confidence, as she realizes her success lies within herself, not in external validation.

With an attitude of self-improvement, she can pursue excellence on her own terms, embrace challenges, and take pride in giving her full effort.

Foster a Supportive Community

As a coach and parent, you play a pivotal role in cultivating an empowering environment for your female athlete.

Here are some tips:

Ensure coaches build up rather than tear down.

Avoid overly harsh criticism that focuses on what they're doing wrong.

Provide constructive feedback that helps them improve while also praising their progress and efforts.

Facilitate mentorships with strong female role models.Connect your athlete with successful women in the sport that can provide guidance and inspiration. Arrange for them to meet before/after games or practices. -

Connect with other empowering teams/clubs.

Seek out teams, clubs and organizations that promote confidence and leadership skills, not just athletic performance. Surrounding your athlete with like-minded peers and role models can have a big impact. -

Encourage camaraderie over competition.While competition within the team is healthy, also nurture a supportive sisterhood amongst teammates. Foster collaboration and team bonding versus divisiveness. -

Make the sporting environment feel welcoming. Simple things like learning teammates' names, inside jokes and pre-game rituals can help girls feel like part of the group.

Creating a positive, uplifting environment will empower your female athlete to gain confidence in her skills and voice. With the right support system, she can thrive athletically while also building leadership abilities that will serve her well in life. 

Promote Body Positivity

As female athletes go through puberty, they can become more self-conscious about their changing bodies. Avoid making comments about weight, size, or appearance that could lead to body image issues or disordered eating. Instead, promote a healthy body image by keeping the focus on what their bodies can do, not how they look. - Refrain from weight talk or body shaming. Comments about "looking skinny" or needing to lose weight can be very damaging. Compliment effort and performance over appearance. - Discuss the importance of self-care like proper nutrition, hydration, and rest. Explain how caring for their body helps maximize their potential as an athlete. - Shift the focus to function over aesthetics. Talk about building strength, endurance, speed, and agility. Emphasize that muscle and power allows their body to perform at its best. - Be a role model for a balanced approach to health and fitness. Avoid obsession over calories, weight, or extreme dieting. Demonstrate healthy behaviors around food and exercise. - Intervene if you hear negative body talk between teammates. Promote a culture of body acceptance where girls feel empowered in their bodies.

Teach Her to Have a Voice

Many girls are socialized to be polite, quiet, and compliant. As a result, they may hesitate to speak up for themselves on the field or court. Teach your female athlete the importance of having a voice and using it. Encourage her to ask questions of you or her teammates if she doesn't understand something. Make it clear there are no stupid questions and you welcome her curiosity. Do role plays to practice assertiveness and self-advocacy. For example, have her pretend to negotiate getting the position or playing time she wants. Set up scenarios where she has to advocate for herself, such as asking for a chance to try a new skill or request more constructive feedback. Praise her when she speaks up respectfully. Let her know you appreciate her perspective.  Remind her that her thoughts, needs, and opinions matter - in sports and in life.

Giving your athlete permission and skills to express herself assertively will build her confidence to have an equal voice on the team. She'll carry this empowerment beyond sports as well.

Help Her Manage Anxiety

Competition anxiety affects female athletes more than their male counterparts, so it's important to address it proactively. Teaching healthy ways to cope with anxiety can make a big difference. - Help your athlete establish pre-performance routines to manage nerves. This might involve listening to a certain playlist, visualization exercises, breathing techniques, or other rituals she finds calming. Having a consistent routine will give her confidence. - Equip her with anxiety management skills like positive self-talk and cognitive restructuring. When doubts or worries pop up, teach her to counter them with empowering statements like "I've practiced for this" or "I'm going to give it my all." - Don't avoid conversations about anxiety. Normalize it by explaining many athletes feel nervous before competing. Discuss how anxiety can even enhance performance if channeled properly. - Consider visualization exercises where she imagines executing the perfect hit, catching the line drive etc.

Mental rehearsal builds confidence and familiarity. - If her anxiety seems excessive, explore the underlying reasons. Sometimes worries about making mistakes, pressure from others, or comparing herself to teammates may contribute. Understanding the triggers can help you adjust your coaching approach accordingly. With the right coping tools and your encouragement, she can thrive in competition without being held back by anxiety. Staying aware of her mental state and providing a supportive environment gives her the freedom to perform at her best.

Emphasize Inner Strength

As a female athlete develops her skills in her sport, it's equally important to nurture her inner strength and mental fitness. Girls and women often face additional pressures in athletic environments, so building resilience, grit, and confidence should be prioritized.

There are several ways to emphasize inner strength with a female athlete: -Teach positive self-talk techniques and mindfulness rituals she can use before competitions or challenging practices. Having set routines to get in the right mindset can increase confidence. - Work on mental visualization and imagery. Have her imagine executing the perfect serve or landing the dismount before she attempts the skill. Visualizing success can manifest into reality. - Focus on overcoming setbacks and failure through growth mindset techniques. When she doesn't achieve a goal, guide her to see it as helpful feedback to improve rather than a demoralizing defeat. - Encourage activities like journaling, positive affirmations, or centering breathing exercises to build up her self-belief. The more she practices self-care, the more inner confidence she'll feel. -

Celebrate small wins and personal progress. Shift her metric of success from competitive outcomes to self-improvement. Building up mental fitness is just as important as physical conditioning for female athletes. An empowered girl knows her inner strength and resilience can help her achieve great things in sports and life.

Adjust Coaching Approach for Her Needs

As a coach of female athletes, it's important to adjust your coaching approach to empower them and meet their needs. Here are some tips: - Use a more empowering and less authoritarian style. Female athletes often respond better to coaches who lead through inspiration and encouragement rather than control. Foster athlete independence and self-motivation. - Understand differences in motivational styles.

Female athletes tend to be more motivated by intrinsic factors like personal growth and team relationships rather than extrinsic rewards like trophies. Emphasize personal bests over winning. - Build personal coach-athlete rapport. Take time to get to know your athletes as individuals. Build trust through open communication. Be empathetic and address their insecurities. - Emphasize effort and progress. Praise hard work and resilience. Celebrate small wins and improvements. Process-focused feedback is more motivating. - Promote connection over competition. Foster teamwork and peer support systems. Healthy team bonds empower female athletes. -

Offer positive reinforcement. Counterbalance criticism with recognition of strengths. Confidence grows through validation. With a coaching approach tailored to their needs, female athletes will feel empowered to give their all and build self-assurance. Meet them where they are, focus on growth, and let them know you believe in them.

Appreciate Her Unique Abilities

It's important to identify and appreciate the unique strengths, talents, and abilities of each female athlete early on in training. Avoid making assumptions or having preconceived gender stereotypes. Get to know your athletes as individuals. Personalize your training methods, coaching style, and feedback for each athlete based on her abilities. Some may excel with endurance while others have fast sprinting speeds. Consider different learning styles and motivations too. Make sure your athlete knows you see her existing capabilities and potential, not just limitations. Dispel gender bias or stereotypes that claim girls aren't as capable in certain sports or positions. Highlight positive role models of successful female athletes in diverse sports. Emphasize effort and improvement over fixed notions of innate talent. Praise hard work and resilience. Encourage her growth mindset believing abilities can be developed. Make sure she knows you believe in her potential. Recognizing her unique strengths will empower her confidence to take on new challenges. Appreciating individual abilities provides the foundation for personalized training to maximize her athletic development.


Empowering female athletes means supporting them in building confidence while also developing their skills and abilities. As we've discussed, there are several effective ways coaches and parents can achieve this: - Focus on self-improvement over comparison. Encourage athletes to compete against themselves rather than others. Celebrate personal growth and effort. - Build a supportive community. Foster camaraderie over competition within the team. Make sure athletes feel accepted for who they are. - Promote body positivity. Don't focus on weight or looks. Celebrate athletes' strength, speed and power. - Give them a voice. Listen to their concerns and make sure their input is valued. - Help manage anxiety. Teach mental skills to build resilience under pressure. Don't undermine their confidence. - Emphasize inner strength. Remind them talent alone doesn't make a winner. Resilience, grit and character matter. - Adjust coaching style to her needs. Take a nurturing approach focused on development. Don't push too hard. - Appreciate her unique abilities. Identify and develop her natural talents. Don't try to change her. The key is making sure female athletes feel empowered and confident in themselves, not just competent in their sport. Coaches and parents play a big role in shaping their self-perception. By taking the steps outlined here, you can have a profound impact on developing strong, self-assured young women both on and off the field.


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