This article originally appeared on EricaSuter.com
Somewhere out there, there's a female athlete getting yelled at by her coach for making a mistake.
Somewhere out there, there's a female athlete crying and her dad telling her, "you're being sensitive!"
Somewhere out there, there's a female athlete scrolling Instagram comparing her body to influencer models in bikinis.
Somewhere out there, there's a female athlete hanging out with girls who shackle her life with drama and gossip.
Somewhere out there, there's a female athlete being told by her mom, "don't lift weights! You'll look like a man!"
But also, somewhere out there, there's a woman in Baltimore, Maryland who calls herself Fitsoccerqueen, has an affinity for soccer science, youth training, female strength building, and nerdy science fiction book reading, as well as crime fighting against negativity.
She is also out there to help female athletes become their strongest selves, both inside and out.
Oh, hey! Nice to meet you.
If you made it this far, chances are, the traumas listed above resonate with you, and you've experienced some crappy, soul sucking people.
Being a female athlete in today's chaotic and noisy age can be overwhelming. Certainly, it's hard out there for a girl who plays a sport and wants to succeed at the highest level both on and off the pitch.
From distractions, to comparison, to jealousy, to abusive coaches, to confidence-sucking parents, to social media pressure to be busy and train hard, to school stress, to girl drama, to boyfriend problems, and so much more, it's hard to stay sane and prevail above the nonsense.
Alas, there's hope for female athletes, and I want to be the beacon of light who inspires them to infuse their lives with fulfillment, self love and passion.
So without further ado, here's my rolling list of training and life lessons for female athletes. Enjoy:
1. There's nothing wrong with "bulky."
The best way for female athletes to feel the most empowered is for them to strength train. Not only will they build muscle to withstand the demands and forces placed upon them in their sports, but they will learn how to overcome adversity and transcend discomfort.
Admittedly, I have a major issue with the word "bulky" because its connotation is a negative one in the sport performance world.
So how about this: let's see "bulky" as good. As a way to become stronger, more resilient for sport. As a way to decrease fat. As a way to develop power and speed. As a way to optimize body composition and fat free mass.
Too, if you're a female athlete who plays an aerobic and anaerobic sport, the amount of running makes it impossible for you to look bodybuilder-esque.
Here is an article that dives deeper into what "bulky" means and why it isn't bad.
Go pull yourself over a bar. Go lift something heavy. Go challenge yourself.
After all, it's all a win-win for your athletic performance and as well as mental health.
2. Never excuse an abusive coach.
"Oh, that's just how he is!" says the female athlete after getting demeaned by her coach.
Or, how about "he was just having a bad day!"
Or, "he will be better when I score!"
No. You're making excuses for psychotic, irrational behavior. Worse yet, you're blaming yourself and taking on emotional labor for someone else's toxic ego and narcissism.
With that said, if you feel any ounce of degradation, emotional manipulation, name-calling, guilt tripping, or grooming, go with your gut. If it feels wrong, it probably is.
Here is more information on the red flags of abuse.
3. Write down and repeat your strengths daily.
How about we shift gears from the negativity?
It's paramount for female athletes to remind themselves of the gems glowing inside their souls. Every. Single. Day.
Are you a goal scorer? Are you a good communicator? An amazing listener to your friends and teammates? An aggressive and tenacious defender?
Get clear on your strengths and train your brain to tap into these treasures daily.
You'll birth a new sense of beaming empowerment even through your darkest, most frail times.
4. Follow the right people on Instagram.
Stop scrolling right now.
I'm insulted you'd rather pay attention to that chick who makes a living off of drinking champagne bottles on the beach in the Mediterranean than me!
Alright, I'll forgive you, female athlete. But let me ask you this: are you following people on Instagram who inspire you, educate you about the state of humanity, propel you to be a better athlete, to train and eat well, and who make you feel like you can take over the world?
Yeah, follow those people.
I dare you to unfollow any accounts right now that make you feel small.
5. Choose one role model and act like them.
What woman inspires you? From her message, to the way she acts, behaves and treats others?
Yeah. Be more like her.
And work on being like her relentlessly.
For me, Princess Kate Middleton.
Her class, elegance, graciousness, warm heart, intelligence and so much more motivate me to be better and follow suit.
Women need other women in order to improve. Choose wisely whom you want to model your life after.
6. Your true friends are happy when you succeed.
Are your friends jealous and resentful when you accomplish something epic?
Or are they genuinely excited for your achievements and totally down to celebrate your awesome-ness?
Let's hope the latter.
7. It's OK to say no to partying with the 'cool' crowd.
If you think ripping shots of vodka on a school night, gossiping about other girls while drunk, and singing Miley Cyrus in your parents' basement is "cool" then shoot. I question humanity.
OK, let me back up a bit. I got a head of myself.
This is more of a conversation on values, rather than judgement. As an example, if you value fitting in, alcohol and no sleep, then that's your choice, and you will have to live with the consequences of your actions at one point or the other.
But if you value playing in college, becoming a better athlete and living a healthy life, then your actions need to be aligned with these values in order for them to come into fruition.
When I was in high school, I was an oddball. Never drank. Never partied. Never snuck out of my house.
And that's because I valued doing well with soccer, getting straight A's, and being first chair clarinet in the school band.
Maybe to some of my classmates I was weird and not cool, but I suppose I turned out OK.
8. Do your Pull-Ups.
Nothing is more empowering that performing a bodyweight Pull-Up. And better yet, one with added load.
Do your Pull-Ups. Your body composition, mind and athletic performance will thank you.
9. And don't you dare utter the words, 'that wasn't a Pull-Up! That was a Chin-Up!'
There's nothing worse than using jargon that takes away from an amazing feat of strength from a female athlete. Pull-Up. Chin-Up. PotAYto. PotAHto. <— read an epic article female strength coach Artemis Scantalides wrote on the topic.
"Pull-Up" and "Chin-Up" are terms that represent the anatomical position of the hands or "grip" one chooses to use.
And depending on shoulder health, posture and personal choice of comfort, some female athletes may opt for a pronated, overhand grip. Others, a supinated, underhand grip. Or, an alternated, switch grip.
Laud and respect any grip they choose. Pulling your body weight over a bar is a huge accomplishment either way.
10. Just because you have wider hips doesn't mean you're broken.
It makes me livid when coaches tell female athletes they are more susceptible to injury because of wider hips, as if they are doomed for life.
Look. I get they want to sound all smart with female anatomy and what not, but yo, Let's stop focusing on things we can't control (wider Q angle), and focus on things we can control: proper warm-up, strength training, load management and sleep quality, and hammering these into our athletes.
Less pessimistic talk, more actionable steps.
That said, female athletes, you're not broken. You can reduce chance of ACL injury.
11. Enjoy the journey.
Remember that athletic development is a journey. There will be days when you feel weak and you can't be the strong, female athlete the world expects you to be.
There will be days when you play flat and uninspired.
There will be days when you lose games and don't score goals.
There will be days when you don't make the starting lineup.
But there will be moments of elation, too. You're lucky it's a long journey and one that will allow you to blossom into a resilient goddess.
12. You don't need to be perfect.
I'll be the first to admit, I'm far, far from perfect.
For one, I'm as stubborn as a mule. Two, I'm so incredibly introverted and would rather spend time with my cat. And three, I make mistakes all the time. My life isn't perfect.
But I try my best to be a human on this Earth who leans into the process of evolving.
To grow we must get watered down by the rain. In order to fly, we must sit still in a cocoon. In order to shine, we must face the darkness. In order to blossom, we must endure the heat of the sun.
Life isn't perfect. It's full of contrast—good, bad, hot, cold ugly, beautiful, light, dark and so much more richness, that if you fight it for the sake of perfection, you're fighting the natural order of life.
13. Everything you do is out of love or hate for yourself.
Whatever you choose to consume is either because you love or hate yourself.
You're better off pouring love into your essence through the foods you eat, the people you surround yourself with, and the hobbies and activities you choose.
Always, always choose love, not hate.
14. You can lift and still have nice nails.
Don't believe me?
Here's a picture of my female athletes' vibrant nails and my French nails:
Glute strength. Core strength. Resilience from knee injury. Increased speed production.
And because, badass-ness.
16. Crying and expressing of emotions are not weaknesses.
Nor, do they make you "sensitive" or "crazy" or "out of control."
What kills me the most is when coaches tell their youth female players that crying is a sign of weakness.
Actually, no it's not. It shows you care. You have empathy. You have compassion for others. You have the capacity to change and heal the world.
Cry it out, I urge you. Don't listen to the cold sociopath who tells you otherwise.
17. Stand up to your parents.
Constructive criticism is one thing, but constant berating is another. If your parents do the latter, it's time to stand up to them.
No trainer your parents hire can increase your confidence on the pitch, unless they cultivate it at home in the first place.
18. It's OK to compete and be aggressive with your teammates.
Being aggressive in practice and battling it out with your teammates is a good thing. Too often, girls are afraid to "hurt" each other in training sessions that they don't play or compete at their potential.
Here's a newsflash for you: You're there to make each other better. Avoiding placing adversity upon your teammates is only doing them a disservice.
19. Your boyfriend should treasure you and fill you with energy.
I was reluctant to drop ya'll with the dating advice here, but screw it. Here goes nothing.
Ladies, if you feel insecure around a boy, or you're constantly questioning where you stand with him, that's not a good sign.
Be with someone who breathes life into you and encourages you to grow athletically, academically, creatively, emotionally and spiritually.
20. Lift other girls up.
I'm forever grateful to be surrounded by women who uplift my soul. From best friends, to fellow writers, to my coaching colleagues.
Nothing pumps me up more than other women doing great things and crushing it in the gym:
Lifting each other up is critical, especially because it's a tough world out there for female athletes.
The only way for everyone to brave it with courage is to support each other's pursuits and have each other's backs.
We all can do a better job of weaving a strong web of community.
So if you made it through this entire article, please pass this message along.
You'll be the start of a powerful movement for all girls in sport.
Photo Credit: Erica Suter, South_agency/iStock