Building confidence comes as a result of time, practice, discovery, and failure.
Last week I flew out to Seattle, for the first time, to attend an event for Zgirls. They are a non-profit empowering girls in sports to be confident, resilient, and courageous. The organization was founded by Olympic and NCAA athletes and to date their program has reached over 1,000 girls. Gender stereotypes often portray self-confidence as a male feature. Zgirls doesn’t just talk about confidence, they give girls the guidance and tools to foster it, support, and inspire girls now to influence the women they will become.
No athlete (or person) is perfect. Most successful athletes are willing to publicly discuss their failures, and how they learned from those failures to achieve goals or build confidence.
The Zgirls speaker an all-star panel included A J Anderson, Courtney Thompson, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird. AJ was the first female recipient of the Golden Glove. Courtney is a two-time Olympic volleyball player. Megan has earned a gold medal competing in the World Cup and Olympics as a member of the US Soccer team.
For me, it was Bird’s remarks that struck a chord. Her accolades are legendary and her accomplishments historic. The highlights include two NCAA National Championships at UConn, with the Seattle Storm she is a two WNBA championships, AND she has four Olympic gold medals. At the age of 36, the point guard is the oldest player in the WNBA.
Bird has been in the public eye since she was a teenager, identified as an up-and-coming talent to watch. She is noticeably cautious in her interactions with the media and the public. Bird describes herself as “quiet and a little shy.” After some time and discovery, these days, she is taking on hot-button issues and generally being more open to sharing her opinions and experiences. Most recently, she has begun to embrace and speak to her LGBTQ pride.
At the Zgirls event, Bird spoke to a variety of different topics. It was her time at UConn that really struck me as it reminded me of my experiences training as part of a NCAA National Champion team. “What I learned was preparation. One of the major things I take with me every day is to be prepared.” It was during this lesson of preparation when she made the analogy of preparing for a test in school. When you take the time to prepare, you feel confident. But sometimes the preparation itself was character challenging. She talked about practice drills that Coach Auriemma designed intentionally to set the players up for failure. During those times at practice, Bird along with her teammates discovered the depth of their mental toughness. So that come game time, they were resilient to overcome failure in the short term and confident they could be successful to get the next rebound and make the next shot. Auriemma wanted his team of women to succeed when it mattered, in the game. So he taught them it was ok to fail in practice, as long as they learned, became more adept, mentally stronger, and wiser.
Sue Bird and Zgirls teach girls they can rebound from failure, and it will make them better (and happier).
As March, women’s history month, comes to a close; I want to take the time to express gratitude. I am grateful for this platform Paul and his team have provided to me so I can share these stories with you. I am always energized to attend these events that showcase women in sports, as they are still rather a rare find. Not long before attending this event, I read an informative Forbes article. It provided some striking facts. “Although 40% of athletes are women, women’s sports receive only about 4% of sports coverage; and major internet sites are more likely to cover (cute) animals than women sports.” Here’s to 2018 being the year that at least 5% of sports coverage includes female athletes.