By Greg Bach
The pursuit of that all-important confidence for young female athletes is often a challenge-filled, frustrating and, at times, elusive endeavor.
“The first thing is to understand what confidence is,” says Erica Suter, author of THE STRONG FEMALE ATHLETE: A FEMALE ATHLETE GUIDE TO IMPROVE PERFORMANCE, REDUCE INJURY, AND INCREASE CONFIDENCE. “A lot of people think it’s just mental, like talking to yourself with affirmations or meditating, but it’s also physical. The more a girl works on her physical strength and her skills on the field the more she is going to step on the field with confidence. So what she’s doing physically is going to manifest mentally.”
During Suter’s youth soccer journey she discovered the link between strength, conditioning and confidence, which helped ignite a fabulous career at Johns Hopkins University where the high-scoring midfielder caused a lot of trouble for opposing teams.
By the time she graduated her name was scattered all over the school record books, including tops in career goals, assists, and points; single-season highs in assists and points; and she nabbed the conference’s Player of the Year award as a senior.
“I love strength training and I’ve seen the results since I was in middle school,” she says. “My speed and conditioning got better, but it was more the mental side of it and feeling more confident because I was working on being strong and healthy.”
It’s knowledge the Tampa, Fla.-based strength and conditioning coach loves sharing with young athletes she works with these days, both in person and online.
“Young girls have to take responsibility for their confidence,” she says. “As a coach I always say that I can’t be the only solution to building confidence. Yes, it’s good to have role models in a girl’s life but they need to work on that themselves, too.”
That starts with taking stock of everything they are doing surrounding their sports participation.
“You have to take inventory of what you are doing for your development,” Suter explains. “Are you getting your sleep? Are you fueling your body in a way where you feel good, where you feel confident and where you feel energized? Are you challenging yourself? Are you in environments that are helping to make you confident and not complacent?”
Suter vividly remembers her youth soccer days, and the coaches who made it so fun she couldn’t wait to return to the field.
“I got done with that first soccer practice at age 6 and I remember being so overjoyed,” she recalls.
And providing that same type of fun-filled experience is a focal point with the young players she works with these days.
“With younger players it’s really important to create energy and excitement,” she says. “They have to feel like the most important person as soon as they arrive and it’s just making sure that they are going to feel like this is going to be the most exciting session of their life and when they leave they’re like ‘wow, I want to do that again.’ I think back to when I was 6 and I want them to have that feeling when I left that first practice and how I couldn’t wait to go back.”
Written for female athletes, coaches, and parents, Suter’s book dives into many important topics for female athletes: speed and strength training; nutrition needs for sustaining energy, recovering from practices and games, and what’s best during different phases of their menstrual cycle; building confidence and overcoming challenges; developing life-long healthy habits; and more.
Evidence-based research and personal stories are shared throughout the book.
“You have to take care of yourself and nourish yourself for the rest of your life,” Suter says. “So it’s about teaching everyone discipline and good, healthy habits.”
Follow Erica Suter on Instagram @fitsoccerqueen and Twitter @fitsoccerqueen; and learn more about training options that are available with her.Erica Suter Soccer Confidence Strength Conditioning Nutrition Injury