Coaching Girls: Part II (Role Models and Self-Talk)

Watch this, then read:

“You can’t be what you can’t see".

"The importance of role models for women in sports is undeniable. In fact, one could assert that it is a vicious circle. The more women take positive, leading roles as athletes, trainers, journalists and decision-makers, the more women will see that gender inequalities can be overcome – not only in sports but in all professions1." "There are significant gender differences in the way athletes are viewed as role models, with males being more likely to identify with successful athletes while females tend to identify with parents2."

Although there is some debate in the literature over whether or not role models can be effective for helping young girls to stay committed in sport, there is enough strong evidence that points to their effectiveness that the concept should not be ignored. Know that you are in steep competition with current role models that can pull your athlete (or push her) into other choices, who may not be the ideal role model you have in mind.

Celebrity singers, actors, and magazine figures get so much coverage time and media space, that girls will have a hard time knowing that any other role models exist. What kind of role models do you provide your athletes? What are the attributes of the role model that you want to bring into your training program? Be mindful of the messages you send both directly and indirectly, because sex sells, and media does not always help our developing athletes.

The IDEALISED champion X Girl

Or, wait....Why are these girls wearing their underwear in the winter? How does this make an 11 year old feel?

(Bottom Left Ashleigh McIvor Top Right Sarah Burke Bottom Right Linsay Vonn)

The Real Thing – role models that make girls feel stronger!

Extreme sport and girls

Girls tend to be more fearful and self-preserving. USE THIS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE! Skill acquisition is important in giving them confidence to execute risky skills. Girls have so much more self-preservation. The authors of one study in skateboarders found that the fear of falling and getting hurt prevents more girls from taking up the sport. Interestingly, some women in extreme sports see the value in a more “feminine” approach to risk, which means taking a more wholesome approach to the risk (analyzing, asking questions, balancing out the pros and the cons to the risk).

Cindy Mosey observes that her female students listen more and exercise more caution then men. She suggests that this is perhaps one reason they tend to succeed (Berkshire Encyclopedia of Extreme Sport 104). Back to a point made in the first article in this series, skill acquisition was a major theme of this presentation series by the Freestyle Ski group. For girls, it is more important to give them confidence to execute risky skills than for boys. Boys are more likely to attempt the risky skill without gathering all information about the skill, while girls need to gather information before they attempt.

The following video is a good example of how this little girl needs to gather more information about the skill she's about to attempt before she attempts it:

Learning Ski Jumping takes courage, and this 4th grader has what it takes. Listen to this little girl's self talk, needing more information about the jump before she attempts it, and seeking assurance and confidence from her coach in order to find the confidence to do the jump from within.

Let's define INJURY. Injury is damage leading to loss of participation, loss of training and competition, removal from team or sport program, and a first injury increases risk for re-injury. Injuries may be a result of musculoskeletal or nutritional deficits. There are many types of injuries that will take the athlete away from her training and competition. Injury may also lead to a more permanent withdrawal from sport. We typically think of injuries as those that we can SEE. For example, a sprained ankle, a broken arm or a twisted knee are usually wrapped or casted and the athlete may limp or be using crutches. We will address non-impact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, a devastating injury that effects female athletes s 3-6 fold more so than male athletes. These musculoskeletal type injuries will be called “mechanical”.

Despite our first instinct that injuries can be only musculoskeletal, especially in extreme sports such as Freestyle ski, common injury origins to female athletes are musculoskeletal, nutritional AND “heart” (emotional injury). In other words: mechanical, energetic, and emotional. Short term and long term consequences include loss of participation, psychological impact, and added risk for subsequent injury. The most common mechanical injuries are to the knees and head (and occur in females more often than males). Emotional injuries are often forgotten, but can build up and stay with girls for long periods of time.

Back to one of the original points in this blog series: Dropout. Do girls really drop out? Or are they pushed out? From personal experience, working with fully grown women who are attempting to work out or get back into a sport for the first time in years, some of the barriers for these women are purely emotional. Some of the same reservations they likely had as small girls are still ingrained into their heads. It is not uncommon to hear a woman say "I don't want to try that, because last time I tried that I was ____ years old, and I failed at the skill and was laughed at". This becomes a viscous cycle when grown women still lack the confidence to attempt new skills, and this circles back to a negative Role model for young females. Although negative self-talking is one of the most common expressions of this, being vocal about being teased in sports as young girls, remembering past injuries in sport that to this day, prevent them from participating, and any other negative social experiences with sport as children stick with them.

“Excellence is accomplished through deliberate actions, ordinary in themselves, performed consistently and carefully, made into habits, compounded together, added up over time."

Since it is mundane, it is within reach of everyone, all the time. So, as coaches, this is our challenge to create excellence:

• "Through deliberate actions (the things players do in training)

• Ordinary in themselves (everyone is doing them, there are not real secrets)

• Performed consistently (done on a regular basis)

• And carefully (with high standards and consummate focus)

• Made into habits (coached into your technical, tactical, psychological and physical fabric)

• Compounded together (with an understanding of harnessing all the elements)

• Added up over time (done when appropriate on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis)”

- Daniel F. Chambliss, Sociological Theory 1989

As coaches, we need to reintroduce females of any age to a range of sport and activity, building their trust slowly, focusing on effort and acceptance rather than performance (see Coaching Girls: Part I), and progressing them intentfully.

Stay tuned for the third part to this series, and if you enjoyed, please share!


1 - ILO, ‘Women in Sports’, 30.


3 - Daniel F. Chambliss, Sociological Theory 1989

4 - Berkshire Encyclopedia of Extreme Sport 104

#Girls #Sport #LTAD #adolescence #weightlifting #performance #endurance #firstday #learning #yoga #students #trainedathlete #Exercise #workout #teaching #independance #nerves #Coach #Coaches #Coaching #exercise #Fitness #children #Psychology #female #Physicalactivity #dailyaffirmations #Warmup #Activity #athlete #weights #Cardio #Injury #Selftalk #Rolemodel #musculoskeletal #Ski #SkiJump

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