Documentary

The role direct communication plays in growth of female athletes

I don't need to go into all the reasons it's a good idea for girls to play sports.

You know by now that it teaches teamwork, leadership, time management, confidence, and strength.

I think an overlooked attribute girls develop from playing sports is how to communicate. As a former college athlete, current youth softball coach, and sports reporter, I'd like to share how sports has helped me become a better communicator.

I grew up playing soccer and softball year-round and enjoyed playing most sports for fun, with both girls and boys.

I noticed early on how my guy friends communicated with each other in sports. If they were mad because a teammate played poorly, or didn't see someone when they were open, they went right in each other's faces and told them to get their act together. That usually involved a bunch of swearing, and could even end up in a fist fight. But after that, they went back to being best buds like nothing ever happened!

I couldn't believe that.

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From a girl's perspective, this was amazing. I mean, if one of my teammates was dogging it and not working hard, I always found the girls would talk behind her back and never, ever say anything to her face.

They would rarely say anything to the coach.

Even if the coach noticed (which of course they did) and said something, a lot of times behavior didn't change because there wasn't that peer pressure to help affect the change. I learned that the boys' way of communicating - direct and to the point - went a lot further to help the team.

I don't know why girls have a harder time doing that, but I suspect it has to do with confidence. Obviously direct communication doesn't mean a fist fight is the greatest outcome, but a direct conversation will affect change more often than just talking behind someone's back. I believe playing sports helps girls gain confidence, and it's importance to harness that in ways that will help them later in life also, like having the courage to communicate directly. This is something about which I continuously talk to my own daughters.

This lesson also helped me accept that "direct communication" in a positive way.

I always preferred the coach who told me where I stood.

Tell me I stunk.

Tell me where I messed up.

But please, please, please tell me how to fix it. Don't just lay into me and leave it. Lay into me, and then teach me.

Because of this mentality I had as an athlete, as I have grown up, I respect bosses and co-workers who do the same. This is why I always appreciated working for the late George Michael.

Man, he would get frustrated with this young 23-year old reporter. His temper was legendary. But after calling me and yelling at me 30 seconds after I got off the air, he always told me how much potential I had, and exactly what I could do to be better.

He was a teacher, and a coach, in addition to being a boss. Because of those lessons, he helped mold my career into what it is today. I appreciated the direct communication, and reciprocated that in return.

To me, teaching my young daughters to communicate directly is best illustrated through their sports. I love when I see them encouraging teammates in positive way to be better, and try harder, or asking coaches how they can be better, or how they can earn more playing time.

This is a lesson I learned through sports, and has certainly helped me in my professional career, and is now also helping me as a mom.