In working with thousands of female athletes, I’ve been able to see a wide range of personalities and behaviors on and off the court/field.
One that tends to baffle coaches and parents alike?
Athletes that are shy, timid, or hold back during competition.
Sometimes accused of being “too nice,” these athletes have a tendency to back down when the competition gets fierce. They pull it back instead of going for it. They let others take the lead and set the tone for the competition.
As a parent and a coach, it’s probably hard not to just tell your athlete things like “be aggressive!” or “Go for it!!” and hope for the best.
Sound familiar? If your athlete tends to be more on the shy side or holds back in competition, there are a few reasons why that might be.
Learn what they are below, as well as my go-to strategy she can use to unleash her inner beast on the court/field!
First…Why is she holding back?
In my experience, there are a handful of reasons why female athletes tend to back down or become more timid in competition. Usually it’s because of…
1. Her physical characteristics (or perceived limitations)
Not big enough.
Not enough experience.
The list goes on…
Athletes can be quick to decide that their physical characteristics or experience don’t set themselves up for whatever sport/activity they are competing in.
They might have an image in their head of what a basketball/volleyball player/runner/soccer player, etc SHOULD look like, and if they don’t fit the mold, they label themselves and use it as a reason to not play full out.
This can be really damaging to an athletes confidence, especially if they are going up against competition that looks “bigger, faster, and stronger” than they are.
This can, in turn, cause athletes to shrink down and lose before they even start.
So, how can athletes still show up and play all-out even if they might be undersized or slower than their competition?
The key is to focus on the strengths they bring instead of dwelling on how their perceived labels hold them back.
Maybe she’s not the tallest, but because she is short she is quick and has fast feet.
Maybe she’s not the fastest, but she has great court awareness and is smart with ball placement.
Continue to improve these strengths! Yes, we want to work weaknesses, but leveraging strengths is a much better way to build confidence and use them to an athletes advantage.
A good rule of thumb is to focus 70% on strengths and 30% on weaknesses.
2. Her personality
Some player’s personalities are naturally a bit more reserved, shy, and introverted. Maybe they prefer others to take the lead and don’t mind taking a more supportive role. Maybe they feel like others will think they are “mean” or “rude” if they are more aggressive.
There is nothing wrong with being more reserved and introverted! (It’s important that athletes know this).
However, during competition there are times when playing more aggressively allows athletes to have a better game.
But if it’s not natural to them, they feel uncomfortable, are worried about what people will think, or don’t know where to start…it can be hard! Learn my go-to strategy to help with this below.
Lastly, some players hold back and are timid during competition because of fear.
Fear of making a mistake.
Fear of disappointing teammates.
Fear of what the coach might think.
Fear of the spotlight and being better than others.
These fears can take over and cause athletes to fly below the radar in hopes they don’t mess up or get noticed.
Enter: The Alter Ego Technique
One strategy that applies to all the situations above is called the Alter Ego Technique. Athletes can implement this strategy to help them separate who they are on the court/field from who they are off. Here’s how:
Create an “Alter Ego” that athletes become on the court/field
1. For 2 minutes, have athletes write out their best playing moment with as much detail as possible (usually their best performance is when they played more aggressively)
2. Next, have your athlete list out all of the qualities that she was embodying during that performance.
3. Take all of those characteristics and create a character. Give the character a name or choose an aggressive animal (lion or tiger) that represents this “Alter Ego”
This Alter Ego is who players will channel before a competition. They will think about this person/animal and become them on the court/field, separating who they are on the field from their personality in daily life.
There you have it! Three reasons why athletes may be more shy/timid on the court/field and my favorite strategy to help them unleash their inner beast on the court/field.
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