My name is Dr. Jen Welter, and in 2015, I became the first female coach in the National Football League. My road to the NFL came through a life committed to being a student athlete and playing #LikeAGirl in a sport girls were not supposed to play. I can absolutely say, sports have played a huge role in making me the confident woman I am today, and that’s why I am honored to partner with Always #LikeAGirl. With my experiences on the field, my masters in Sport Psychology and my PhD in Psychology, I am uniquely qualified to speak up for the importance of confidence for girls, and the ways we can help girls be more confident through playing sports and everyday life.
1. Consistency is key. You are one of the most powerful influencers in your daughter’s life and while there’s many things in this world that you cannot control, know that you can own your impact. This includes being active in her confidence development. For instance, your daughter is impacted by your actions and approach to life, so when you say sports are important, show her by playing because that’s even more powerful than words alone. Additionally, how you react to your own appearance, setbacks and physical activity have more of an impact on your daughter than you know. Most likely if you exhibit confidence and positivity in your own life, your daughter will too.
2. Watch for changes in confidence. According to Always, 8 in 10 girls have a negative reaction to reaching puberty. During this critical time, not only do girls experience physical changes, but emotional changes as well. It can be an uneasy time, but that’s what you are here for! Acknowledge the change, arm your daughter with all the information to navigate the changes, emphasize that this is normal and encourage her to keep living her life like normal. During a time when everything feels different, your encouragement is key. Help her pursue the things she loves, including sports, which can lead to lasting friendships, the growth of team spirit and increased confidence.
3. Keep Playing. As an athlete and the first female NFL coach, being part of a team has taught me a lot about myself as an individual and how I can relate to the world. Sports have taught me to lead and follow, to be a leader and to trust in my own strength. That’s why I am thrilled to partner with Always #LikeAGirl to help stop the drop in confidence girls experience at puberty. I was so sad to learn that half of girls will quit sports by age 17 because I know how much playing sports can help build confidence. I hope that all parents, teachers and coaches understand how beneficial sports can be for girls – whether we’re talking building confidence, leadership skills or teamwork.
4. Take setbacks in stride. Parents, teachers and coaches play an important role in encouraging girls to pursue their passions, embrace taking positive risks and helping them overcome set-backs with encouraging words and self-compassion. It is inevitable that, sometimes, her team will NOT win. Sometimes she won’t score the goal or ace the test. When this happens, encourage your daughter to take the next step to overcome it, and have a positive, can-do attitude. When your daughter does win a game or receives an A+ on an exam, it’s important to praise the steps that led to those successes – like hard work, determination and practice.
5. The right compliments can increase confidence. Navigating the changes your daughter will face as she grows up is a marathon, not a sprint. Believe it or not, even certain words of praise can have a negative impact on children. For example, complimenting your daughter on her persistence and determination can go a long way in helping her feel like she can learn and grow and succeed, versus just telling her how smart she is. Show her that she can learn to do anything she wants to do if she is persistent. By focusing compliments on her intelligence, or even her physical attractiveness, she may feel like the things that make her worthy of praise are fixed attributes that she cannot control. As a result, she may feel pressured to constantly prove herself, or even avoid taking on new challenges because there’s a chance she could fail.
Check out this powerful video to help increase girls’ confidence by encouraging them to keep playing.