Tuesday 16 May 2017

Coaching Sport, Coaching Confidence

As a coach to young athletes (track and field and cross country), I of course strive to see them succeed. I’m overjoyed when they win, I help pick them up when they don’t, celebrate a championship, and am sad to see the end of each season.

Spectrum Track and Field Coaches - 2017

However, there’s something above anything else that motivates me to return every year. Something that I celebrate long after the season ends. That thing is the confidence and sense of identity that sport – any sport – provides to individuals.

I’m sure we all remember that non-stop identity crisis that being a teenager entailed, trying to make it through high school while fighting battles of self-esteem and confidence. I sure recall it, and I remember that sense of invisibility and trying to find a way to identify myself as an individual. (Good grades weren’t exactly what I was posting on Facebook to brag about.) The fact that I was a runner was one of the main things that I rode on in order to feel distinguished from the crowd. Even though I wasn’t a particularly great runner (competitive-wise) during my teenage years, it was still a physical ability that helped me stand apart from others in order to feel accomplished.

Circa 2008. Gawwww....

I won’t pretend to be a psychologist by trying to delve into the science of human development, but I speak from experience. As I transitioned from athlete to coach, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many parallels to my athletes and my own story. While I’ve had plenty of athletes routinely come out on top and enjoy award-winning success, there’s been an even more rewarding experience that’s come out of my time as a coach. Being a track and field coach, I’m able to offer a chance to participate in sport to students who have never been athletes before. This has allowed me to witness some very timid, meek, and unconfident individuals (potentially feeling that same sense of invisibility I mentioned) develop confidence and pride in this new activity and begin to use it as that identifying aspect of their character. (Not to mention how sport participation will help to combat problems with body-image. But that’s something to talk about in so many different posts.)

Asking The Expert

"As adults we want to be operating ideally from what is known as a 'congruent' state. This is where we respond to a situation and not react! There's a difference. Children tend to react, and we can find ourselves doing this in our adult day to day living. 
One of the methods [for helping clients progress in communicative and social ability] … is to bring the client to a place of congruence.  Congruence is achieved by addressing several layers of our lives. Picture that iceberg as it stands out above the water. What we see is pretty impressive, but icebergs have far more beneath the surface, literally!The top of the iceberg has functional behaviour and needs: bills, schoolwork, social engagements. But as you slowly work down the layers of the iceberg you eventually get to the ' under the surface ' areas that [are described] as core; our yearnings and our connection with our self and our creator.
Being alive to those deeper often buried yearnings has a direct correlation with our communication style and our congruence! Remember congruence is the goal! Sport is often an area that can enrich a person's life significantly. Self-confidence, physical strength, endurance and appearance all improve with sport participation."
Sasha Tanoushka (Bio listed below)

For these reasons, when coaching youth sport, I put particular effort in this area of development. The athletes who regularly come 1st and 2nd in their races aren’t the ones that have the most to gain and in fact, the reason that I love coaching track and field more than anything is because I can attract those individuals who are brand new to sport and exercise altogether. This allows me to provide some sort of intervention in that potential identity crisis. I’m never going to try to change who they are, but I see building confidence in an ability to physically to perform (even if it’s not to a first-place title) as an avenue to help these young people feel like they have enough distinctiveness and individuality that it can allow them to feel a sense of belonging – without abandoning their existing core personalities.

Lastly, I don’t believe that if I miss these kids before they grow up that it’s too late. I firmly believe that any age is a good age to begin building on that value of confidence in one’s physical ability; I see it happen all the time, in fact. The 40 year old lady who becomes a runner, the previously-overweight man who now loves recreational baseball, or the retiree who fell in love with hiking – they all instill that sense of identity in who they are as a person and help to allow them to love and be confident in themselves as a whole. Physical literacy plays such a huge role in our personal wellbeing, and being able to tap into that, whether for ourselves or as a professional to others, makes the world of difference.

And that’s the reason I coach.


Sasha Tanoushka is a member of the BC AMFT and AAMFT  ( American Association of Marriage n Family Therapists  ). She's completing her MA in Marriage And Family Therapy through Northcentral University. She's worked extensively with families and individuals over the years in both community sports, martial arts, kids' clubs and ladies' community groups.

She has a particular interest on neuropathy and works with several therapeutic modalities but has a particular leaning towards Satir, Bowen and Gestalt.

She can be contacted at: birdibost@gmail.com 

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