#78: Q&A: When To Push and When To Support Your Athlete

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When you see your female athlete losing interest to work on her goals, what do you do? Do you try to push/motivate her? Or do you stay still and let her figure it out on her own?

When would be the best time to act? 

I know a lot of moms who have these lingering questions in mind. As a parent, we can see our daughter’s potential and capabilities, so whenever we notice her pulling back, what is the right thing to do?

In today’s episode, we have the same kind of question from one of our ECP moms. We’re going to discuss how you as her mom can help encourage them. And we’re going to share the three key things an athlete needs to excel.

Pushing for Motivation

“ How do I know when I should push my daughter because I know she’s capable. And when to back off and just let her have space and keep my mouth shut.”

This question came from one of our ECP moms, and a lot of moms with female athletes might have the same concern. Every situation is different so we can’t just give an absolute answer to this. 

First of all, let’s break down the question and look at it from different perspectives. So, what do we mean by “pushing” our female athletes? 

These pushes could include reminding them of their goals whenever we notice them pulling back. We tend to question them about their actions. And sometimes, we even call them out, the “tough love” as we call it.

Moms do all of these actions in hopes of getting their daughter’s motivation back. And I’m not saying that it’s wrong, but every athlete is different and they’re going to be motivated by different things. There’s no one way or trick in getting their motivation back. And as much as you want to help them, no one can motivate an athlete better than themselves.

Motivation is fundamental, and it should come from your daughter. Yes, there are other external things we can do to help motivate them, and we’ll talk about that later. But, in the end, your daughter’s passion for her sport stems from her own inherent desire, her personal ownership of her sport and happiness.

There are three key things that athletes need to excel in their sport. 

  • Enjoyment 
  • Ownership
  • Intrinsic Motivation

These things should ignite from within the athlete and not from the external factors that push them.

Pushing and Pulling Back

The question still remains, Do I have to push my daughter to be motivated?

After knowing that motivation should come from our female athletes. I want moms to look inward and ask why do we have this desire to push our female athletes? Where is this desire rooted in?

Is it out of concern? Is it because you want her to be better at her sport? Do you fear that she’s going to fail or quit? Or do you have this fear of not doing everything in your power to help her?

A lot of these thoughts and concerns are because of our genuine intention to help her achieve her goals. We want to help her be the best version of themselves. We feel this burden whenever we feel that she’s not playing to her fullest potential. Out of love, we have this desire to help them figure it out and fix it. 

And most of the time, whenever a mom asks whether to “push or pull back”, my advise is always to “pull back”.  

Pulling back means knowing your role as your daughter’s support. There are four major roles that exist in your female athlete’s journey.

  • The athlete herself
  • The coach
  • The ref
  • The parent

This is your daughter’s firsthand experience. She has the right to choose what she wants. She gets to choose whether or not she wants to play in college. This is not your journey. It belongs to her.

And ofcourse, as her mom, it’s your journey in a different way. But it’s no longer your athletic journey.

You are not the coach. So you’re not providing pointers. You are not providing technical assistance. And, to be honest, it is the coach’s obligation to push her out of her comfort zone.

You are the parent. And your number one job is to support your daughter. And be that soft space for her to land. 

For example, You’re getting in the car with your daughter and she just had a competition that didn’t go well. And you see that she’s not feeling great about it. She’s just feeling unmotivated and say “I don’t know if I like volleyball anymore”. Then your fear is coming up and you feel the need to push her a little bit. Maybe you start with the questioning, giving suggestions to train more, or remind her of her goals.You might even say she can’t quit now. 

By doing this, you’re creating an environment that your daughter doesn’t want to be in. 

Our goal in these situations is to make your daughter feel a safe space with you. We want her to feel that it’s okay to come up to you and share the ups and downs of her sport. So, make her feel that you’re there to listen. 

You can ask her leading questions to make help her share with you or vent out. 

“ Do you want to talk about the game?“ 

“ How are you feeling? ”

Just be that soft space for her to land. Be that place where she can just explore what she’s experiencing. In times like these, we have to be that resting place where she doesn’t feel pressure. 

Being Her Support

Focus on being her support

If you’re worried about her not getting inspired, remember that your role is important as her support. It is the coach’s job to inspire and push her, so take that load off your shoulders. 

Let the coaches do the pushing. You can help set her up with the skills that she needs to succeed mentally by getting her into programs like our Elite Competitor Program, that make sure she has mental skills to navigate these negative thoughts.

You have to be the soft space for her to land. 

Focus on your role as her support in this journey. Most of the time, your daughter just needs a place where she can feel that she can be herself. A place of love regardless if she quit her sport or not. A person that helps her to see that her sport is just what she does and it’s not who she is. 

I know that there are a lot of questions that people have about this whole scenario of when to push and when to pull back. And in my experience, if you’re choosing between pushing your female athlete and supporting her, then I’d say “support her”. Let those goals, those dreams be hers. And just watch her as she goes after them. 

Be that place where she feels comfortable. 

When our athletes feel comfortable, they feel supported, and they feel seen.They would feel that they don’t have to perform to get your love. And they actually perform better knowing that they have that unconditional support from you.


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