Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Journeys & Victories [Print without images]

Monday, August 15, 2011
Attagirl! Pep talks from the pros

By Courtney Rubin

You could call your comfort zone a cocoon: You'll never fly unless you break out of it.

Sounds like a pep talk, right? Well, it is. And it's effective. Trying a new sport, or attempting to push the limits of one you already love can be tough and, to be honest, downright scary. That's when mantras and motivational tricks kick in. If you're in a standoff with your fear, here's what three women who've been there and busted free want you to know:

Danielle Resha, 18, the only female player on the Boston Ravens men's semi-pro football team. She also plays for the Boston Militia, the women's football team.

"I got cut from the basketball team my senior year, so I decided to check out football. I just made the age cut-off, and walking in was pretty intimidating. I got through it by thinking more about the opportunity I would have if I could just deal.

"Now the coach with the Militia [Derrick Beasley] will say, 'I'm not going to yell at you because you need to motivate yourself.' And that hits me right away. I think, 'Why am I slacking?' And then I do something to fix it. One of my favorite quotes is something Tiger Woods once said: 'You can always become better.' "

Joan Steidinger, Ph.D., a sports psychologist who has worked with Olympic athletes. She's also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and competed as an endurance athlete.

"Think about previous successful performances. They don't have to be sporting events. You just need them to remind yourself that you've been a success before and you can be again.

"Then during your event, stay in the moment. Do not think about failures in the past or your fears of the future. I tell people to imagine a dream home where you can go anytime to feel safe and calm and comfortable. You have to practice this so it comes easier during an event.

"Women are very relationship-oriented, and we do better in pushing beyond our comfort zone when we have support from friends and family. So someone who's new to something or is scared to death should find a good coach or training group -- or ask a friend to join her."

Beth Torina, an assistant coach for the USA National Pro Fast-Pitch Florida Pride and the head coach of the softball program at Louisiana State University.

"Some of my players think it's tough for women to push themselves outside their comfort zone because we're in tune with our feelings. But others think it's even tougher for men, because they don't evaluate themselves as well to make the adjustments needed to improve. I think it's important to set daily goals. After you meet them, you have increased confidence and can continue to push yourself to get better and better. It also helps to surround yourself with others striving to be the best. It's easy to stay and play where you're a star, but you need to go and be the smaller fish. You may not be the best player on the team any more, but this is how you stretch yourself and push to a higher level. Hard work is the biggest factor. By knowing that you have done all you can to prepare for competition, you can be fearless."