Five Ways to Develop Self- Empowered Athletes

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

We are only as good to others as we are to ourselves. Not only is self-care not selfish, it’s paramount to your team’s success. We tend to acknowledge this point in regard to stick skills, tactics, film, exercise, nutrition, sometimes sleep and occasionally relaxation. However, self-empowerment, knowing and leading by one’s internal strengths, is the key to your program’s success this season. “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

Photo courtesy of the author.

Here are 5 ways to help your athletes empower themselves for enhanced team development:

Managing Ones Energy Not Her Time

Energy is defined in physics as the capacity to work and comes from the four main wellsprings of body, emotion, mind and spirit. In each of these areas energy can be depleted, expanded and renewed through goal setting, developing habits and establishing rituals. To recharge themselves, athletes need to recognize the cost of energy depleting behaviors and then take responsibility for changing them, regardless of the circumstances they are facing.

  • Make small changes – like going to bed earlier
  • Do more of what fuels one’s strengths and share tasks that don’t when possible
  • Practice one’s core values in all aspects of life

Mindfulness for Mental Toughness

Simply put, we are the sum of our thoughts. Mindfulness is defined as present moment awareness, without judgement. This means more than sitting in meditation counting breath, although that can be an awesome part. Mindfulness means being aware of what is, not what one wishes was. In other words, in this moment I am incredibly happy, I will continue to do more of this. Or in this moment I am angry and have the choice to respond or acknowledge my anger, use mindfulness tools to release the anger and come back to the situation when I am more balanced. In the heat of the moment being aware of what we feel and choosing our response can be incredibly difficult.

  • Using a Power Breath to clear one’s mind and create concise action
  • Tapping into one’s physical senses to restore energy for sustained action
  • Developing relaxation habits to disconnect negative thoughts and fuel positives ones

Transparent Communication and Trust

A team is fundamentally built on relationships that develop one conversation at a time. Each conversation we have is either moving us towards or away from our personal or team goals. Transparent communication thus requires speaking, listening and most of all understanding of self and teammate. This requires an immense trust in one’s self, in one’s teammates and a willingness for both to be vulnerable in every conversation.

  • Build self-trust by communicating with oneself the same way one would with a teammate
  • Know the difference between on and off field communication
  • Practice the Platinum Rule

Finding the Fun

Sports are a playground to learn life lessons. No matter what level one plays at, she is simply still a powerful young woman with a stick in her hand chasing a ball. She alone is responsible to build her confidence up. She alone is responsible for breaking her confidence down. She cannot control how anyone else around her acts, she can only control her response. In her response lies the opportunity for growth.

  • Clearly know one’s role within team culture
  • Consciously bring one’s personal strengths into each drill and element of the game
  • Take a minimum of 10 minutes for self each day – walk, sit, meditate, stretch, read, sing, journal etc. – I promise you, you have the time!

Failing Magnificently

One’s greatest growth comes when she is willing to step outside of her comfort zone. This is a positive risk to take when one knows her internal strengths, establishes achievable goals and through positive trust and communication (with self and team) is willing to take action. However, one might still fall short of a goal or lose a critical game. All is not lost, if one is then willing to reassess the mistake, make changes and try again. This is failing magnificently.

  • Setting “Real” or S.M.A.R.T goals
  • Know the difference between a healthy versus an impulsive risk
  • Developing resilience as the ability to fluidly define personal success

For more information on how to help your athletes develop balance in all these areas and consistently perform with empowered self-leadership visit


Brighde Dougherty was an All-American lacrosse player at William Smith College and coached collegiately for over thirteen years. During this time, she also earned her MA in Leadership, completed a NOLS course and worked with Outward Bound inner-city programs. Brighde is now the founder and coach for FLOW Self Empowerment through which she uses movement, adventure and sport to foster individual self-confidence and self-leadership for enhanced team performance.

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