The journey to self-confidence
By Ker’Shyra Myrick
Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, Alex Morgan, Elena Delle Donne: When you hear these famous female athletes’ names you probably think fierce, strong and champion.
All four of these women are dominant performers in their respective sports, but it can be hard for young female athletes who are just getting started in sports to have the same self-confidence of the pros they look up to and admire.
“Since sports culture is male-dominated, we need to value and celebrate the feminine,” says Dr. Jennifer E. Carter, Director of Sport Psychology at the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center. “It’s effective to express emotions—emotions and passion are a big part of performing at our best in sport—even if emotional expression isn’t valued. It’s also effective to compete and be aggressive when necessary. We need to work on building confidence.”
CREATING CONFIDENT PERFORMERS
Building confidence in young female athletes is not always easy, and often takes some time.
“Building confidence is an individual and collective journey,” Carter says. “Individually, try to discover what is decreasing confidence. Collectively sharing fears with other girls and women may help develop self-confidence as well.”
If coaches or parents notice that a young athlete’s self-esteem is not improving, talking with a professional can help.
“Meeting with a sport psychologist doesn’t mean you’re crazy,” Carter says. “Often, high-functioning individuals see sport psychologists not because something is wrong but to take their performance to the next level. There may be other avenues like talking to clergy, reading, journaling, learning mindfulness skills, etc.”
Young athletes should focus on having fun, building their skills and hanging out with friends.
And if coaches remain patient – encouraging and applauding improvements along the way – that valuable self-confidence will emerge in their young athletes.
“If it were easy to build confidence, we all would have stellar confidence already,” Carter says. “Parents and coaches need to be patient in allowing each child to develop with an equal balance of warmth and limit-setting.”