Coach's talk: Staying positive

28 May 2020

Clare Ferguson, Specialist Coach for the Queensland Firebirds, talks to Suncorp Team Girls about how she nurtures positivity both on and off the court. 

There’s a lot we can learn from our coaches; coaches all have their unique ways of lifting a team. Some taking a very personal approach - others offer more practical, tangible things to remember when on court.

How important is having a positive frame of mind in netball?

It’s essential and is a skill that needs to be practiced daily as it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Your team doesn’t need to be full of Positive Pollys who always rock up to training and games with a smile on their face, but you do need a team of players who choose to approach situations with a positive attitude, regardless of the challenges that they face.

This quality of optimism and positivity is a key component of resilience giving us the grit to persevere, rather than give up. I love discovering how different personalities convey their positivity; for some it will be vocal, others with smiles and high fives and then there are the quietly determined souls who let their actions do the talking. As coaches we play a key role in assisting our players to recognize and harness their individual positive approach and help them to maintain it when things aren’t going to plan.

How do you work with a player if they are not reaching their goals?

I start a conversation. Sometimes the hardest thing for players to do when they are struggling is to ask for help or to identify how to improve a situation when they feel like they are ‘giving it their all’.  Injury, fatigue, stress at school or work, challenges with family or personal relationships, unrealistic goals or an individual seeking an unobtainable ‘perfect game’ can all contribute to how players respond to these situations. I generally approach the conversation by:

  • Person first, player second - forget the netball for a moment and check in to see what’s happening in their life
  • Identify what their biggest challenge or concern is at that time
  • Revisit their goals - do they need to be re-set or do you simply need to re-focus on what they are trying to achieve?
  • Create a plan of action to achieving those goals with daily behaviours and key focus points to achieve them
  • Ask how can I help them moving forward? Do we need to seek assistance from anyone else to support them
  • Re-set their positive internal talk - give them all of the warm and fuzzies but make it meaningful:
    • Reaffirm their strengths - everyone loves being told what they’re good at!
    • Acknowledge their growth and the contributions they make
    • Remind them to look for progress not perfection, nobody breezes through life unchallenged

What about if this applies to the whole team – How hard is it to uplift the team after a bad run?

Focusing on the what you can control is really important within this setting. You can’t hope for another team to have a poor performance against you or blame others for a loss.. You can however control your attitude, your daily actions, and choices.

Perspective is key. The best coaches I’ve had model a sense of optimism and belief that our goal as a group is achievable. Reflect on past performances together and identify areas for growth. Verbalize the actions associated with achieving these and allow your players to re-focus on the task at hand.. Remind your team of what makes them unique and powerful as a unit, reaffirm their strengths and help them to recapture the fun and spirit of what makes team sport special; the relationships, energy and inspiration we gain from each other!

What role does your wider coaching team play? Do you rely on support from other people and groups to help you?

Surrounding yourself with a supportive community who believe in your abilities significantly improves your self-confidence. The coaching and wider support staff group all have a role in bringing their own flair and style to creating a positive and successful environment for the team. Players will naturally gravitate to different coaches as their source of guidance and inspiration so it’s incredibly valuable to have everyone contributing to the positive attitude of the group. It extends beyond the confines of the team environment too as we rely on partners, family, friends and fans to continue boosting reserves of positivity and optimism throughout a season.

Positivity in a team setting is infectious - so the coach becomes the catalyst to reigniting their belief.

Do you encourage your players to practice positivity off the court as  well as on (Relationships, careers, friends)?

100%! Most elite athletes understand that sports participation enriches their lives through the abundance of life skills which can be transferred away from the court - but from time to time we all need a reminder! Adopting a positive approach for any goal or challenge is essential to drive confidence and help you step outside your comfort zone when things are tough!

Clare Ferguson's top team girls tips:

  • Have a daily routine that allows you the opportunity to be productive – set that alarm clock!
  • Set yourself daily & weekly goals and revisit them regularly
  • Practice your positive internal self-talk, leave yourself affirmations around the house as reminders to keep you on track (think notes on mirrors or at your desk)
  • Celebrate the small wins! Be proud when you reach a milestone or have achieved a goal
  • Maintain a balance between schoolwork, exercise, screen time and family- just like you would normally
  • Stay connected with things and people that inspire you to be better!

Read more:

If your child, or anyone you know is having issues with self-esteem, confidence or mental or physical health, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

This content includes the views and opinions of a third-party, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Suncorp. Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, personal situation or needs.

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