#97: Q&A: When Your Daughter Thinks Her Coach Doesn’t Like Her

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“How do you help your daughter when she feels she has disappointed her coach or her coach doesn’t like her because they gave constructive feedback about her game?” — This is a question from a mom who is participating in our training for improving your female athlete’s mental game without being pushy or saying the wrong thing.

This is a common thing that happens to female athletes. In this situation, her daughter is taking this feedback as a personal attack on herself and she’s feeling like her coaches are disappointed in her and don’t like her anymore. How do we help our daughters who are in this situation? 

I’m going to tell you why this happens, what your daughter needs to do when it happens, and how you can help her.

What’s Happening:

As humans, we are all wired for belonging and safety. And so no matter what environment we’re in, we want to feel like we belong and that we’re safe. This case also occurs in an athlete-coach relationship. Athletes want their coaches to like them at some point, and that’s not wrong. 

Every time we are criticized, we all get the impression that someone does not like us. And that’s what’s happened to the female athlete. 

However, part of the coach’s job is to correct. They have to tell and point out what your daughter is doing wrong and help her do it correctly. 

This athlete is also looking to her coach for validation. The athlete was looking for positive feedback and has taken the correction as an evaluation of her as a person. She’s also taking this feedback that our coach is giving her as an evaluation of her as a person. 

This athlete is internalizing what this coach is saying. She’s connecting the feedback to herself as a person and her relationship with her coach. 

What She Needs to Do:

Now that we’ve explained what’s happening inside your daughter’s mind. What she needs to do is realize that she has to separate what she’s doing from who she is. 

What she’s doing points to her sport. 

Who she is different and separate from that sport, or from what she does. Who she is as a person won’t change no matter what her performance is. Regardless of her sport, she still has the same personality, and worth as a person. She would still be equally capable and deserving of love.

It can be a bit tricky because what we do is not who we are, but it is also closely related to what our passions are. Who we are is connected to what we do daily. This could make her feel that something’s wrong with her. This is the reason why female athletes need to make sure that their confidence depends solely on themselves and not on other people’s validation. 

When we always seek other people’s validation and always worry about what they think of us, our brain starts to create stories. So, if your female athlete is holding on to the belief that her coach doesn’t like her, her brain will find evidence for that. 

She has to separate what she’s doing from who she is to gain confidence in herself as a person. 

How Can You Help:

You can help by making sure that you are evaluating her as a person rather than just what she does. And you can do that by shifting the focus of your praise toward who she is as a person. Instead of praising her for winning, you can start praising her for seeing her do her best. Think about what you love about her.

Highlight her good qualities not on her achievements in sports but rather on the kind of person that she is. Is she generous? Does she love helping people? Is she the kind of person who just brings in joy and energy? 

You can help her separate fact from the story. So, if your athlete is coming to you saying “my coach just doesn’t like me”, you can help by saying things like “Tell me more about that. And let’s figure out what’s the fact in this situation.” 

Validate her feelings first and then help her separate the facts from the stories her brain has set. One good fact is that when coaches give feedback, it doesn’t mean they don’t like the athlete. 

Many athletes who are people pleasers have this dependent relationship with the important people in their lives. They are only concerned with not disappointing the people they care about.  So, if your athlete is thinking these things about her coach, don’t jump into conclusions and agree. This reaction into negative feedback is a normal case for female athletes and even for us. 

We all want to feel that we belong. We all want to feel safe. 

Asking for the coach’s validation is also a sign that she may be discreetly seeking validation from you, her parents.

If this is the case, you can gently remind her of your love for her regardless of her performance. Remind her that there’s nothing she could do that would make you more proud than you are right now of her.

Help her separate her identity and worth from what she does. Help her strengthen her mental game and give her the opportunity to be more confident about herself. In this way she’ll stop seeking validation from other people. She’ll be able to handle constructive criticism and be truly confident in who she is. 


Helpful Links:

  • Join our FREE training for Sports Moms – How To Strengthen Your Athlete Daughter’s Mental Game Without Being Pushy Or Saying The Wrong Thing.

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