Motivating Young Athletes
Written by Stephanie Hill (Jonesboro, Ark.)
NOTE: This article was written as part of the USA Volleyball Coaching Accreditiation Program (CAP) Level II requirements
“Girls must bond to battle, but guys must battle to bond” continues to be repeated by experienced coaches.
Having been involved in sports all of my life, I have seen how different girls can be. As a coach, it is even more obvious and it has become a challenge to figure out how to motivate female athletes. I have only experienced coaching young women, so it is impossible to compare the two. Speaking with coaches who have coached both boys and girls, it is a mixed review. Some coaches prefer to coach women and some prefer to coach men.
As young women are about to begin a competition, they seem prepared and excited to be out there playing, but as soon as the whistle blows, they visibly clam up and become unsure of themselves and their abilities. It is a constant battle to keep their confidence up.
One of my most difficult moments as a coach is to sit on the bench and watch as these young women continue to doubt themselves and their abilities. One act of motivation that has seemed to work with some is basically threatening them with running or similar consequences if they do not pick up their level of play.
When young men are about to begin a competition, they are typically fired up and do not show nearly as much emotion as girls do. The male athlete has one thing on his mind: compete and win. Female athletes have a hard time separating their private, emotional lives from athletic competition. The effects of a bad day follow them onto the court. When we can figure out how for them to leave such emotion off the court, they will begin to be more like the male athlete and be able to compete and keep a level head.
Another experience I have had recently that built motivation and teamwork was taking my team to a ropes course. It was very interesting to see and hear different comments as they participated. Some did not realize the motivational side of the activity until they attempted a task that was a challenge to them. Others realized the motivation as soon as they attempted any task that involved their being off the ground.
A few of the activities involved the girls communicating how to accomplish the task and staying motivated to overcome the challenge. Those challenges where communication was not allowed proved to be an interesting experience.
The last challenge we had was to get the entire team over a wall that was approximately 12-feet tall. The instructors gave the girls permission to have someone at the top of the wall to help the first person over. It was a pleasant surprise to see the team did not want that because they felt like they could accomplish this task without using other methods to achieve this goal. I do believe they had been motivated by the day’s events to attempt the wall with no “outside” help.
As I had hoped, their initial efforts were successful. We were able to get everyone over the wall until the last person. At this point there was no stopping the team from achieving what they had set out to do. We tried a few different approaches until we finally reached the point of “now or never” and went with one. The last girl had to jump at the wall and try to grab my and another girl’s hands. After about eight or nine attempts, she was able to grab the girl’s hand and then mine, and we were able to pull her up and over the wall. The sense of accomplishment was huge. We as a team felt that we could accomplish anything.
As I looked online to see what others have learned about motivation, I found an article by Mike Croskery that is worth reading at http://www.myomaxfitness.com/Articles/motivation.htm.