Female Athlete Elite Performance & Confidence Coach

#16: 3 Strategies to Handle "Mean Girls" in Sports

confidence level-up podcast self worth Oct 19, 2021

I started getting good at volleyball in high school, specifically around my sophomore year when I finally started to grow into my 6ft frame. 

I was finally strong enough to put the ball away with power. I was getting quicker. I was tall enough to do what my shorter teammates couldn’t as easily. 

I was playing a lot. I started getting noticed... by colleges, other teams, and coaches. 

My teammates also noticed. And some didn’t like it...

I can remember the snarky comments.. “She thinks she’s so good…”
The subtle eye rolls when coach would announce the starting lineup. 
And wanting to hide my stats in the paper so that some of my teammates wouldn’t see. 

As females, we walk this line of “being your best” but “not too good” daily. (But that’s a topic for a different day!)

Today, I’m talking about how to handle the teammates who (for one reason or another) bring you down.

Here’s what to do if you’ve got a “mean girl” situation on your hands

Decide who’s opinion you care about

“Don’t worry about what others think” sounds good, but it isn’t totally realistic. 

We are wired to care about what other people think of us. 

However, how much we care about what others think is in our control. 

What’s even more important? What we think about ourselves

One activity that I love to help with this comes from Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong. 

Here’s what to do:

Create a square on a piece of paper that is 2 inches by 2 inches. 

Inside this square, write the names of the people in your life in which you truly care about their opinions and thoughts. The type of people that you listen to when they give you advice, or the people you go to for help. 

Likely, there’s only room for a few! 

And anyone that doesn’t make it into the box doesn’t get your full attention! 

It’s a simple mindset shift. Most of the “mean girls” won’t be in your 2x2 box. So, your athlete doesn't need to worry as much about what they say, think, or do. She can focus on the people that truly care for her and her growth! 

Keep her goals at the forefront

Athletes can remind themselves of their long-term goals, the athlete they want to become, and the big picture of what they're trying to achieve daily. This should be a part of a daily mindset routine to help her focus on who she is becoming.

She can ask herself what she cares about more: The opinions of some of her teammates or what she wants to achieve and accomplish in her sport?

Most of the time, her long-term goals will win out and it will make snarky comments and petty actions seem small in comparison. 


Practice compassion

This one might sound surprising, but it helps to shift your mindset to take a peek into why these “mean girls” feel the need to bring others down. 

Usually it’s because they are feeling jealous and insecure and don’t know what else to do. Often, bringing others down is their attempt to feel better about themselves. 

This absolutely does not excuse bad behavior, but it can help to realize that their actions are often less about your athlete and more about themselves. 

Model the behavior that she wants to see instead of resorting to what they are doing. Show what it looks like to be confident in herself, celebrate others successes, and going after her goals. 

Stand Up and/or Seek help

If a teammate’s behavior is continuing to impact your athlete, it is absolutely okay for her to speak up, hold her boundaries, and tell them how their actions make her feel. 

This can come in the form of a conversation in which she states the behavior and how it’s impacting her. Confrontation can be hard, but it’s best to do face to face (potentially with the help of a trusted adult) and can often clear up miscommunication. 

Of course, if your athlete is feeling threatened, bullied, or in a situation of harassment or abuse, we want to see her seek help from her coach or parent immediately! 

“Mean girls” are difficult. However, with simple shifts to her mindset, surrounding herself with support, and having strategies to confront behavior when needed, she can absolutely thrive despite them. 

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