When your daughter comes up to you out of the blue and says, “I feel like I don’t fit in on my team,” with a frown on her face, what would you do? Would you ask her if she told her coach? Would you offer advice and tell her what to do in these situations?
Here’s why that’s not going to work: You’re not building confidence in her when you spoon-feed her solutions to problems she faces in her team. You eventually teach her to rely on your advice on that situation and future situations. This robs her of being able to think for herself and reach a solution on her own.
Asking her ‘are you being friendly with them?’ ‘do you talk to them?’ ‘did you talk to your coach?’ does not give her the confidence to think for herself since you’re doing the thinking for her.
She will eventually learn to rely on other people to solve the problem for her in the future.
It’s important to give your daughter the proper mental training so that she can think about this on her own. And that’s not just to enhance her performance. Mental Training leads to confidence, advocacy, and self-trust in all aspects of her life, not just in teammate dynamics. We want our daughters to think for themselves and that’s how they’re going to have confidence in every situation, not just in this tricky teammate dynamic thing.
Do you know what the number 1 predictor of success on a team is? Psychological safety.
This means that:
- Athletes feeling safe to be themselves.
- Athletes feeling like they belong.
- Athletes feeling like they can risk and fail and be okay.
When they feel all of this, they can be confident in whatever they do. Their confidence will skyrocket when they feel safe to be themselves without judgment from peers or parents, they also have the security that they belong in a circle. It’s important that you secure your daughter’s psychological safety in order for her to thrive in her team.
Teammate culture/dynamics depends on a lot of factors:
- The coach and how they form the culture/relationships building of the team
- The personalities/maturity level of the athletes
- Mixed grade levels
- Competitiveness of the team
A single team would consist of freshmen, sophomores, or seniors. Each of them has different maturity levels and personalities. Realize that many of those things are out of your control. What is in your control is your response to your daughter when she comes to you conflicted over these dynamics in her team.
You have no control over her teammates, her coach, which team she’ll be placed in. But what you have control over is how you can teach your daughter how she can come up with solutions when faced with problems like sudden competitiveness within the team, feeling like she’s being left out, jealousy over teammates. You also have no control over that, but you can steer your daughter to be a critical thinker.
Here is ONE area that I want you to focus on when it comes to your daughter not “fitting in/clicking” with the team:
Teach her how to think, not what to think.
How do you do this?
- We don’t want to control their thoughts –confidence and sense of self hinges on an athlete’s ability to think for themselves and trust that what they’re thinking/feeling is true. An athlete’s instinct is everything for them. In the court, it’s what they rely on to compete and it’s what drives them to their wins. If they don’t trust their instinct, if they don’t trust what they feel or think, not only are they going to perform poorly, but it’ll also affect their personal lives in the long run.
- We want to teach her how to put data together, pause, get curious, and ask questions… rather than statements/immediate answers/stories that could be limiting. Athletes at such a young age, are in their discovery phase. They’re getting to learn about the world and their sport from the people around them. They don’t have the experience of an adult so naturally, there are a lot of things that feel new to them. Teenagers, in general, are always curious and it’s your job as their mother to encourage that curiosity and push them to wonder, to think, and ask questions. That’s how they grow not just as an athlete, but as a person.
- Teach her how to notice her own thoughts, her own reactions. Your daughter is an individual with her own thoughts, feelings and emotions. You can’t control what she feels and what she thinks, and you shouldn’t. She is her own person. Let her discover what she feels, let her notice how she reacts to certain situations in her team. That way, she’ll discover her own individuality and build confidence in her to be able to handle situations you have no control over.
- “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime”. This heavily applies to how you guide your daughter to think on her own. If you feed her answers and solutions, you’ll only be able to help her on that one occasion. When another situation arises, she’ll come to you again and you give her answers and it just becomes a cycle of her always running to you when in need. And that doesn’t help her in the long run. She’ll only be reliant on you. If you teach her how to think, how to assess the situation and find answers on her own, soon enough she’ll be able to come up with solutions on her own rather than coming to you every time. You won’t always be there for her, so it’s important that she gets the independence and confidence she needs.
- Ask more questions rather than give answers. The key to inciting critical thinking into your daughter is by asking her more questions rather than giving her the answers. This way, she’ll be the one to answer her questions on her own.
Advice Giving vs Activating Curiosity.
When we ask questions, our athletes learn to ask themselves their questions prompting them to answer it on their own.
For example, she goes, “I’m always left out.”
Giving Advice: “Well have you tried asking to be in the group?” “You could pick a partner ahead of time” ➝ Guiding her to a specific end. Always relying on YOU/OTHERS to solve her problems.
Activating Curiosity: “So you felt left out at practice. Tell me more about that.” She chose someone else to be her partner” ➝ Recapping helps her feel seen, validates her feelings. Let her be the narrator, not you. We want our athletes to wonder about things.
When we ask questions, we help our athletes put things together in their own mind.
Hearing your daughter say: “I don’t know what my teammate meant when she said that” vs “she hates me and I hate her” is important!
We want her to assess the situation rather than act upon her emotions. By teaching her how to think on her own, we’re also teaching her how to better react to any situations she faces in her team.
Although you have no control over your daughter’s teammates or how they interact with her, you have control over suggestions you can provide her coaches. You can:
- Loop the coach in – View the story from the coach’s perspective.
- Offer to lead team bonding/activities for the team – incorporate into things that the team is already doing.
- Mental training skills.
- Building confidence on the inside vs seeking validation from teammates/friends.
- Skills to advocate for herself.
- ECP, counseling.
Your athlete’s psychological wellness relies on you and how you shape her to be an individual. Be the one that teaches her to fish rather than the parent that feeds her all her life. Let’s give them the seed and let them nurture and grow it.
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