Words that we wish would be banned from the vocabulary of girls. Here's why.
So far in 2018, we've had just shy of 85 first-time 360U softball athletes walk through our doors at The U for hitting sessions. From Stevens Point, through the Fox Cities, down to Brookfield and everywhere in between, we've been so impressed by the talent, skill-level and character of the young girls we've been working with the last few months. They speak well in front of groups, they are incredibly coach-able, and they radiate the most contagious, genuine energy of any group of people we've ever been around. Our 360U Team raves about how fun work is and how it's impossible not to leave happier than when we arrived. You parents must be doing something right!
We started a new practice with our first-time 360U athletes that has revealed a very interesting pattern to us. Before an athlete gets to her 'live hitting' station in the batting cage with an instructor, we talk to them one-on-one and say, "Tell me your greatest strength in softball" Then we wait for their response...and wait...and wait. Then finally, they quietly respond with one of the following: "Uhh. I don't know. Hmm. I'm not sure?"
All of the sudden, that same dynamic, smiley girl we described above starts shrinking right there in front of us. We watch it happen before our eyes - their body language and facial expression drop and we can see them wrestling with this simple question. We're not talking about a handful of girls answering like this, we're honestly talking like 85-90% of them. That is a shocking number! We couldn't believe when girl after girl would answer the exact same way! We've almost begun to assume that their answer will be somewhere along the lines of "I'm not really sure?" Or, if they do give us an answer, it will be followed with "I guess", "I think", "maybe" or "kind of."
If they have trouble articulating what they are confident about or why they should believe in themselves, how can we expect them to step into the batter's box against a live pitcher in a game and experience any success at all? BUT, as their women instructors we can definitely relate - we've been there before too. In sports, work and life we've found ourselves having the same self-doubt and trouble speaking about our strengths without worrying about coming across as "arrogant" or "cocky". It's something we've realized we need work on, too.
We see this pattern as a huge red flag; however, we also see this as an incredible opportunity and responsibility. We need to start giving these girls permission to talk openly about their strengths, their talents, and why they're proud of themselves. We need to tell them it's okay to be 'really good' at something and help them figure out what those things are! Let them know when they do something awesome, or when they've made progress. They know their weaknesses, believe us. To them, it seems as though everyone is always pointing those out. And quite frankly, that's the easy thing to do as an adult when they're young, learning the game and making obvious mistakes - that's why so many people do it.
But just try this. Be someone who relentlessly helps them find the positive and you WILL see a shift in their confidence, approach, and results!
Maria Van Abel & Laura Beyer
When we started 360U Softball in 2016, our goal was to help softball players get better. We found a lot of athletes needing instruction, and wanted to help them bridge the gap between where they were, and where they wanted to be as softball players. VERY quickly, we found that the grand opportunity in front of us was not just to teach mechanics to these young women, but FAR more importantly, to help them understand how truly amazing each and every one of them are and to find their best self.