I often say that athletics gives its participants a chance to learn all sorts of life skills. I’m going to quote the President of Beloit College (where I work!) as he talks about the benefits of sport, because he’s much more eloquent than I am: “Athletics offers a particularly clear connection between high discipline and high achievement. Being effective in front of a highly attentive external audience in a high-stakes setting requires years of practice. Staying calm, rational, and productive when chaos is reigning around you requires practice.”
Good stuff, huh?
We have an opportunity to give our female athletes a chance to practice quality communication. It’s not something that comes naturally for a lot of folks (hence the ever-present belief that women can’t get along), so allowing our team leaders to get practice at it will give them a leg up not only in athletics, but in life. If you’d like, check out this video, Why women don’t get what they want, it’s only about three minutes long.
3 ways our female athletes can practice great communication
- Be direct. I remember a team where I had great senior leadership. There were four young ladies who were equally strong, but in much different ways. My two “fun” captains were always complaining that the underclassmen weren’t listening to them. They’d say, “When we were freshmen, we just followed whatever the seniors told us to do.” And that was the difference. My fun captains were asking their teammates rather than telling their teammates. Asking opened the door for folks to choose something that the captains didn’t want whereas telling would not. Of course there are times for telling and times for asking, but our leaders can’t get frustrated when their teammates pick an option when given an option.
- Be a listener. Over the course of a season, there are bound to be times when a player may not be getting along with another player. I’ve often said the source of all “girl drama” is conflict left unattended. We have a chance to show our athletes how to handle conflict in a way that it doesn’t escalate into an epic battle…with teammates choosing sides. How is that, you ask? Listen. Rather than trying to shout each other down or make their own point, what if each player listened to the other’s concerns? This may take some mediation by a captain or a coach, but I think it’s a great way for our players to practice conflict resolution.
- Be an “I”. Many times, our team leaders may try to soften requests they have of their teammates by saying “we” want to do something…or even “coach” wants us to do this or that. According to the expert in the video, that weakens their position and their authority. I think this is an invaluable life skill! If we could get our female athletes to practice owning their words, we can call our time with them a success. Even if they are relaying information from the coaching staff, our team leaders could say something like, “Coach says we have to be more focused in practice and I agree with that, because I believe we can win conference if we practice at a high level all of the time.”
Sure, being direct, choosing to address a conflict, and owning their words can be scary for our female athletes….that’s why we want to get them some practice at it! But as our college’s president said, athletics is a high-stakes game and it takes practice. Teamwork takes practice, leadership takes practice, and communication takes practice.