Using sport to build confidence in girls.

Written by Natalie Doyle

June 16, 2023

A group of children football players crowd around their female coach

One of the most important outcomes of taking part in sport is the positive impact it can have on confidence.  Unfortunately, a negative experience can have the opposite effect and dent confidence.  Many women will have experienced this from PE lessons, where they had a negative experience that left them feeling unconfident when it comes to sport.  So how do you make sure that you’re using sport in a positive way? How can you utilise it to build confidence, regardless of ability?  Here are some top tips:

1. Set achievable challenges.  When planning your activity, think about how you can challenge your high-performing participants, whilst also providing a way to make the challenges achievable for any participants that may be struggling. Celebrate the achievements of all players, making the activity more enjoyable and increasing motivation.

2. Use positive praise and encouragement. When giving praise, make sure it is genuine and not tokenistic. There will always be something you can praise for every participant – achievements, attitude, perseverance.  Praising the effort and behaviours is just as important as praising the result, often even more so as you can’t always control the final result.

3. Involve girls in decision-making. A consistent theme that comes out when I talk to coaches is how girls want to know why they’re doing something. Explain the reasoning behind what you have planned, and try and involve them in making decisions about the session where you can. Giving responsibility is a great way to build confidence so let them plan the warm-up, or choose between a few options as part of your main session. Praise them for taking on leadership roles and point out the positive impact this has on the delivery.

4. Give them other roles. Some girls will be really lacking in confidence when it comes to taking part in sport, so see if there are other ways you can get them involved gradually outside of participation. They can help you set up the equipment, they can support your delivery, and then you can gradually start to get them involved.  See if they want to join in for 5 minutes, and then gradually increase this at a pace they’re comfortable with.

5. Get to know your players and their parents.  Speak to the players about confidence, and ask them how confident they feel when it comes to certain activities. Their parents will know about their worries and concerns.  You can work together to address these and build up their confidence.

Sport can have such a positive impact on the lives of young people, and building confidence is a key part of that. If you have examples of the positive impact that sport has had on some of the women and girls you work with, we’d love to hear them!

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