Written by Coach Ally, an MSW student at the University of Illinois-Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work and After School Elementary Coach.
As coaches at Girls in the Game, we all are so lucky to get to have the majority of our days filled with things such as witnessing pure excitement on the girls face when we introduce a new sport, seeing smiles and surprise on our girls’ faces when they realize that the glitter on their hands is supposed to represent germs or, best of all, receiving 17 hugs from participants at the start of programming! I have been so fortunate to witness huge amounts of growth in the confidence of my girls, some of whom I’ve only been working with for five weeks! At one of my sites, one of our participants is in a wheelchair and has limited mobility in her hands as well. The high of coaching at this site was the day that she and I were working together to figure out a way to toss the volleyball so she could practice setting with her strong hand. We tried many different ways, and after five minutes I tried to put the ball above her head and began dropping the volleyball over her hands. She had perfect form and the sound the ball made when she set it with both of her hands was literally music to our ears. She screamed in excitement and an enormous smile spread across my face. The ultimate reward was seeing many of the other girls celebrate with her as well.
While many of our days are filled with these overt and immediately satisfying experiences, some days as coaches we leave programming feeling a bit drained or overwhelmed. On days like this, I have asked myself questions like, “Am I really helping these girls?” When such thoughts pop into my mind I immediately make a conscious effort to stay motivated and positive. After all, it’s during these tougher days that we really begin to learn things about ourselves and our girls.
In order to stay motivated and positive I continuously remind myself that we have the ability to make the choice to see the big picture, so I start asking myself, “What keeps me going?” My answer is always THE GIRLS. The fact is, we have the power to choose to keep those overtly positive stories at the forefront of our minds so that we have the energy to notice all the small steps of growth the girls and coaches are making. The reality is that our job is not always full of joy, but our job becomes exciting and powerful when we realize its all about our girls. Staying kid-focused, and keeping any negative behaviors separate from the girls who are performing them helps bring me back down to reality. To take full advantage of teachable moments, we as coaches have to model a positive and patient mindset and show the girls that we are hearing them. Knowing that we can choose to notice our girls making little changes, and that we can learn as much from them as they can from us are the most powerful tools in my personal motivation toolbox. Ultimately, when our girls leave programming laughing, tuckered out and chatting to each other about how the movie Mean Girls makes it hard for them to value their inner beauty, we know we are paving the way for our girls to become more confident and healthy young leaders.