#36: What To Do If Your Daughter’s Coach Doesn’t Teach The Mental Game

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87% of our moms report that their daughter’s coach does not incorporate mental skills as a part of their training. 

Which is too bad!

But, before you start blaming, it’s not all their fault. 

Here’s why I believe most coaches don’t focus on the mental side of the game:

As much as we expect coaches to be (almost) everything for our daughters, most get into coaching and know one thing: the physical skills.

When I first became a head club volleyball coach, I was 20 years old and still in college. I was actually still playing college volleyball.

I got my clipboard. I got my roster. I got whistle. And I was told, “just go coach them up.” I didn’t receive any sort of training on how to teach the most important part of the game, which is the mental side. 

I quickly realized that I could teach volleyball skills, but if the athletes didn’t believe in themselves and they didn’t know how to perform under pressure or know how to come back from a mistake…

There’s no amount of me telling them, “I believe in you. You got this!” that’s going to make them play better. They have to have those skills in themselves.

This points to the much bigger issue and lack of education among coaches on the mental side of the game (which we have visions to help change – don’t worry!!). They don’t feel qualified to teach it or know how to incorporate it into their practices and routines.

This leave many coaches seeing mental training as an afterthought “when their team starts struggling” rather than seeing it as their competitive advantage to be taught, coached, and utilized throughout all aspects of training and competition.

Knowing that we can’t always rely on coaches to ensure your daughter’s mental game is strong, we’ll cover the following in this episode:

✅ Learn how to spot the difference between a coach or program that teaches mental skills and one that doesn’t

✅ Uncover what you can do to support your athlete if her coach does not prioritize the mental game

✅ Discover how to set your daughter up for success even if she is playing for a coach that has rocked her confidence 

Let’s start with how to spot the difference between a program that doesn’t teach mental training vs one that does. 

Here are three things to look for:

  1. The coach talks about the importance of being mentally tough vs integrating time into practice to teach mental skills
  2. The coach tells them to focus vs teaching skills like breath-work, visualization, and routines 
  3. The coach goes for quick fixes with random books, articles, and guest speakers (which is better than nothing!) vs utilizing a proven system or working with a expert in the mental game

Like I said in the beginning, it should be expected that your daughter’s coach is not an expert in the mental game. By noticing the comparisons above, you can get a better sense on how much you can rely on the coach to lead your daughter in this area.

Regardless of how much the coach may be incorporating mental training into your daughter’s training, as the mom you have a couple major things that are in your control in how to build confidence and influence her mental game: shape the environment and provide the opportunities.

Here are some specific examples of what I mean…

The first thing I want you to focus on is to be her example. 

Your actions are very, very loud.

Think about what mental toughness is. When I talk about mental toughness, I’m referring to an athlete’s ability to respond rather than react to situations. So they can respond and decide how they’re going to control their response and what they’re going to do rather than just reacting to everything that’s going on.

They can navigate emotions confidently. They are resilient, they have skills on how to come back from mistakes, and they have prepared for the outcomes that they want. Those are key indicators of athletes who are mentally tough.

So how can you model these things for your daughter?

How do you respond rather than react to the stresses in your own life?

How do you feel validate your own emotions?

Can you let her see you make mistakes and fail and struggle with negative self-talk and show her how you can turn that around?

If you’re losing your stuff on the sideline when she makes mistakes or you’re losing it when the stresses of life come through, you are modeling how she is going to cope with those things on the court and the field as well.

Along these lines, you can set goals, visualize the outcomes you desire, and then go after them. You may struggle, take a few steps forward and then a few steps back, but you’re showing her what it looks like to have a vision and use your metal skills to bring it to life. 

Our daughters pick up on everything we do, whether we think they do or not. So, the best thing you can do to build confidence and enable her mental game is to be her best example.

Next, encourage what you want to see more of.

I just posted it in the Elite Competitor Society, asking: “What does confidence look like in your daughter? How would mental skills change the game for your daughter?”

And a lot of you wrote back with things like:

  • her encouraging her teammates
  • her having positive body language
  • her coming back from a mistake and taking that risk again
  • her preparing for matches or competition

If you see her doing any of these things, even if there’s a little bit, I want you to point it out to her.

So when you see her encouraging her teammates, point it out.

When you see that she has good body language after mistake, point it out to her. 

And that situation when she takes risks, point it out. “Hey, that took a lot of courage to take that risk.”

Help draw her attention to the things that are within her control that you want to see more of.

Finally, if your daughter’s coach is not teaching the mental side of the game (and really, even if they are), you need to take matters into your own hands.

Get her connected with a program and a community that teaches these skills in a system. This isn’t something to wait on.

If your daughter is young, say middle school, this is the perfect time to start building her mental game. She can set the foundation now for positive self-talk, resilience, recovering from mistakes, and more.

If your daughter is much further along in her athletic career, say a junior or senior in high school, it’s not too late. By this time, she has likely been reinforcing some of her limiting beliefs since she was 13 years old and some work to do to unwind them. And wow is it worth it to do this work now, when she’s young, rather than wait until she’s in her 30s, 40s, 50s to start discovering the power of her mental game.

I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see both the younger girls and the older ones do this work and then to hear from them years later about the tremendous impact it’s had on their lives… not just their sports.

You can’t wait to hopefully have a coach one day who will help build your daughter’s confidence and her mental game. You can take action now.

In addition to being a mindset coach, I’m also a head high school volleyball coach. There are so many things that coaches have to focus on. And I’ll tell you from experience, it’s very easy to put the mental training at the bottom of the list… even though it needs to be at the top. Even though we know that it impacts every single piece of every single decision our athletes are making, from how they interact with their teammates to how they show up and how confident they feel.

So don’t wait for your coach to just somehow get it. Get your daughter connected into a program. Get her connected with other athletes who get it, who understand it, who are traveling the same journey. Get her connected with some accountability.

Don’t be a parents that hopes she “picks it up with time.” If you’re not intentional, it won’t happen.

The best athletes know how to use the power of their mind to level up and play to their potential. This is how to build confidence and elite performance. You just have to choose to step up and into the mental game.

Then, if you want to introduce mental training to the coach on a team level, here are some things to consider:

  • Ensure you have rapport with the coach and don’t come across as criticizing their current approach
  • Bring up instances of times where the team has shown mental strength 
  • Explain how your daughter has benefitted from training the mental side of the game
  • Introduce the coach to our podcast or even offer to connect them with me

Just remember, focus on what you can control. Yes, you can hope your daughter’s coach will buy in to the idea of training on the mental game. But what is absolutely in your control is the ability to shape the environment for her and providing her opportunities to build her confidence and develop her own mental game.

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