What is Self Empowerment and Why Your Team Needs It

By Brighde Dougherty, Founder and Coach, FLOW Self Empowerment, @flow_self_empowerment

There are many different types of coaches: an athletic coach, a life coach, a wellness coach, a personal coach… the list goes on and on. However the definition of a coach remains the same: a trainer or instructor of others. When I stopped coaching lacrosse after almost two decades to start FLOW Self Empowerment, many colleagues asked how I could leave the sport. I responded, “while I may be leaving the sport – I am not leaving coaching. In fact, I hope my new angle on coaching will bring a new and much needed perspective to the sport.”

                Photo courtesy of the author

As the emphasis on recruiting grew and I was talking to more and more athletes all year long, I began to realize that the caliber of athlete was increasing, while the confidence level of the young women we were speaking with was decreasing. Athletes were coming in stronger, faster, with better stick skills and a higher lacrosse IQ, but with little to no ability to empower themselves. There are many reasons for this i.e. helicopter parents, club lacrosse, recruiting at younger ages, technology and the overall millennial generation. I have plenty of curriculum to cover those topics as well, but I took a leap of faith and changed my realm of coaching to focus on decreasing the gap between physical talent and the ability to emotionally empower oneself. FLOW’s mission is to use activity, adventure and sport to build individual confidence for enhanced team performance.

Upon working with my first several teams, ranging from middle school to college athletes and coaches, I realized I had either made a horrible mistake OR I would have a job forever because most women don’t even know what self empowerment means!  Within FLOW, self empowerment is creating the knowledge of who one is at her best. I’ll walk you through the outline of a session to help illustrate how I develop “me powered” athletes and how they will make your team stronger.

We begin with a discussion of some basics:  I define a team as two or more people working together for a common goal. Almost everything we do in life is connected to someone else. We need to learn to work with them, respect them and goal set with them. I turn the definition of the “golden rule” upside down to mean treating others the way they would like to be treated. This means knowing each individual you are working with; their strengths, roles and goals. At this point in the talk everyone is usually still with me.

The tricky part begins when I say, the only way we can know our teammates strengths is to know our own and share them with the team. Now the trepidation begins, it’s time to look inward.

I work through various exercises using Marcus Buckingham’s definition of a strength to help athletes and coaches define who they are their best.

  1. When thinking about the task, you are excited; you anticipate the activity
  2. When doing the task you tend to lose track of time
  3. Once the task is completed, you have more energy than before

Having developed a working definition of their strengths, it is time for phase two: self leadership. In other words, it is time to take action and use group movement to foster confidence, enhance emotional intelligence and live into one’s strengths. Programming is structured on the research that learning and engagement come from creating experiences that are relevant, challenging, fun, and can be transferred and applied to real life situations. We choose from a variety of activities ranging from challenge course style team building programs, to empathy workshops, yoga, Acro yoga, hiking, stand up paddleboarding, or sport specific drills.  The goal is not to build the leader(s) but rather to help each individual learn to lead herself. Through engagement in the activity and working with their teammates, roles naturally form and individual strengths begin to shine through their actions.

In debriefing the activity, the goal is for each individual to be able to say, “I am at my best when I ______.” More importantly, they say how they used those strengths during the activity. We then discuss how their role during the activity was vital to the team’s overall process. These simple concepts of self empowerment (the knowledge of one’s best self) and self leadership (taking action as one’s best self) for team development are not new. All successful athletic coaches know they need to bring out the best in each of their players in order for the team to succeed. As Phil Jackson said, “ the strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”  However, the coach’s job is a lot easier when the athlete is able to empower herself and can see the impact her strengths have on the team. Yes, the coach (and teammates) need to know the strengths for every athlete (that is session 2) and once in a while reminder her how to tap into them, but the coach can spend a lot more time instructing the increasing talent when the confidence is ignited from within. Chances are, everyone will have a lot more fun too!

“Live Empowered”

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