The courage to communicate directly


I don't need to go into all the reasons that it's a good idea for girls to play sports. You know by now that it teaches them teamwork, leadership, time management, confidence and strength. I think an overlooked skill girls develop from playing sports is effective communication.

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 confronted that person and told him to get his act together. That sometimes involved a bunch of swearing, and could even end up in a fistfight. But after that, they went back to being friends and teammates like nothing ever happened.

From a girl's perspective this was amazing. In my experience, girls hesitated to address potential problems fear of offending each other. That reluctance could lead to talking about teammates rather than to them or to coaches. Moreover, avoiding confrontation meant teammates were less likely to reinforce their coach’s messages with each other.

Over my athletics career, I learned that the direct communication went a lot further to help the team. Obviously, that didn’t mean fistfights like the boys were the best outcome, but up-front conversations were necessary to affect change.

I believe playing sports helps girls gain confidence, and it's important to harness that in ways that will help them later in life, like having the courage to communicate directly. This is something I continue to talk to my daughters about.

This lesson also helped me accept straightforward feedback 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. Because of this mentality I had as an athlete, I grew up to respect bosses and co-workers who did the same.

That’s why I always appreciated working for the late George Michael. Man, he would get frustrated with 23-year-old me. 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 directness and I gave it in return.

To me, teaching my young daughters to communicate directly has translated to the sports field. 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 and earn more playing time. This is a lesson I learned through sports, and has certainly helped me in my professional career. Now it’s helping me as a mom.

Jill Sorenson is the Washington Capitals beat reporter and anchor for CSN Mid-Atlantic 

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