Coaching Girls Guide
Focus on Progress, Not Performance
Experts say that girls do better physically, mentally, emotionally and socially when they get the chance to play. But today, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys. As part of Nike's work with community partners and experts to reverse this drop-out trend, we created The Coaching Girls Guide: a resource to help mentor, empower and support young athletes.
Seeing yourself get better at something is incredibly powerful. Girls want coaches who help them feel good about their own progress—regardless of the game outcome. This is where the lessons are learnt, and where sport finds meaning. Every swing, pass, sprint or kick solidifies it. So does every miss, trip, whiff or error.
In coaching, this is called a "Mastery Approach"—a set of techniques that foster motivation and effort, develop athletic skills and reduce anxiety. Coaches who use a mastery approach create opportunities for young people to really engage and take ownership over their learning. A coach with a mastery approach focuses on:
Things an Athlete Can Control: Coaches who focus on what an athlete can control—like putting in effort, trying new things and sticking with something that's hard—help the athlete to develop the essential building blocks of performance, not just fixate on the final outcome. Focusing on what they can control also helps athletes recognise how they shape their own path and the kind of player they become.
Small Wins: No one picks up a tennis racquet and becomes Serena Williams in a day. And if a girl who's new to tennis only ever compares herself to Serena, or even to the best player on her own team, then she's bound to be disappointed. Instead, celebrate those smaller moments—the first time she hits it over the net, the longest rally she's a part of, the first time she nails that overhand serve—so that she'll stay motivated to keep learning.
Bouncing Back From Mistakes: Girls often internalise mistakes differently than boys, often taking them more personally which can lead to her quitting more quickly to avoid the discomfort. Figuring out how to mentally move past mistakes helps girls to build confidence, focus on the next play and have fun.
Girls want to know they're making progress—not just on wins and losses, but towards the skills they're learning. No one is born raising a championship trophy. Improvement takes time, and that means it's just as important to celebrate the day-to-day wins (skills building, effort, cheering and teamwork) as it is to celebrate games won and goals scored.