| | Mission Impossible: Creating Connections with Female High School Athletes

Author / Carl Case

The Problem

Over the years I’ve worked with dozens of athletes who’ve walked through my door on their own looking to up their game. I learned plenty from them and managed to take these kids to levels they could never take themselves. It wasn’t until recently that I was afforded an opportunity that absolutely blindsided me as a coach. I took on a full team; not just one-off athletes. This wasn’t just any team; it turns out I was totally unprepared for what I had gotten myself into.softball pic two

For the last 3 months I have been working with 30 high school girls all from the same softball team.  This experience has been a challenge on many levels; the biggest one was making connections with all 30 athletes.  We train 6:30am-7:30am so there isn’t much time pre or post training time to make any connections. Also with 30 girls, a packed weight room with two to three other teams and an hour to work, things need to stay on track which doesn’t allow for much side conversations. The biggest challenge of all: how do I connect with 14-18 year old high school girls? I know making these individual connections is crucial. It’s not just being able to assess an athlete and program for them, but my ability to communicate effectively to get the point across and accomplish buy in. This done via those connections. Here are some simple yet effective methods I used to create those connections.


The Solutions

  1. Learn all of their names: This may seem so simple that it is overlooked. Dale Carnegie said it best in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People: “remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I remember a specific incident that reminded me of this quote. I was correcting a girl on her movement, and I addressed her by her name as opposed “hey you” or not addressing her at all and her response was, “You remembered my name!” It was as if I had made her day.
  2. Find out if they have prior injuries: This accomplishes two things. First, it allows you as the coach to start creating a list of potential limiting factors you may have to address in the future. Sticking with How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie states: “sympathy the human species universally craves. The child eagerly displays his injury; or even inflicts a cut or bruise in order to reap abundant sympathy. For the same purpose adults … show their bruises, relate their accidents, illness, especially details of surgical operations.” How many times has an athlete shared an injury that they suffered and you immediately respond back a story? Bobby, Muzz, and I did just that and bonded at the Power Athlete Symposium trading countless rugby stories and the injuries that came with them.
  3. Have them teach you sports specific skill: To avoid creating any unintentional barriers of frustration, have your athletes teach you a sport specific skill. I don’t know all the intricacies of the specific skills the girls need to be able to execute. This is a great chance for me to ask them to teach me something, to show I am not just a meathead there to make sure they lift. I am taking an interest in the skills that are required of them, valuing their voice, and allowing them to be the expert. This better understanding of various skills helps me identify what specific adaptations I need to drive during training. This also provides them an opportunity to show off their skills, and witness first hand the natural struggle and frustration that comes with learning as their strength coach tries to accomplish what comes so naturally to them.
  4. Talk to them about their goals: Working with a large group there are a number of goals each athlete is looking to accomplish. Are they trying to get a scholarship, make varsity, or just trying to make the team? Taking the time to ask each one why they are there will show them that you have a vested interest helping them succeed. Maybe they are just there because they have to be and don’t have a goal. This is a chance to help them establish a goal/deeper meaning and convert someone who maybe doesn’t really want to be there. Knowing their goals is also a useful tool to use moving forward to tap into that deeper emotional meaning.
  5. Find something they are good that: Throughout the training there is going to be a lot of new things thrown at them that are going to challenge their posture and position. This has the potential to increase the “gap” that exists between a 30 year old male coach, and a 14 year old female high school athlete. To avoid creating any unintentional barriers, set your athletes up for success. Set aside time in your program to let them express their God given talent. For my softball girls, we play running bases or sprints that work on the drop step they need to chase down a fly ball.

All stereotypes set aside, it is very common for there to be an emotional and psychological “gap” between an adult male coach and teenage female athletes. This is the very barrier we are trying to overcome. An athlete or team who identifies with a coach can identify with the coach’s message.  Without establishing these connections the messages you are trying to get across to your athletes will fall on deaf ears. Don’t be your athletes limiting factor by failing to make the connections… even if they are high school girls!

No mission is too impossible for a Power Athlete coach!

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Carl Case

Carl Case has been an athlete his whole life, playing both football and rugby in high school. After high school, he directed his focus to rugby where he went on to become a collegiate Midwest All Star. Carl continues to play rugby on a mens team near South Bend, and was part of a National Runner Up team. He found CrossFit and then Power Athlete as a way to fuel his rugby performance. He has been following the Power Athlete methodology since it’s launch in 2009 and attended his first CrossFit Football seminar in August of 2009.

After an introduction to CrossFit in 2007, Carl became a certified coach in 2009 and co-owner of CrossFit South Bend in 2011. In addition to coaching CrossFit and Power Athlete inspired classes at the gym, Carl has been coaching high school rugby since 2009. He uses the CrossFit Football and Power Athlete concepts to help his young athletes identify their goals and provides pointed instruction to help achieve those goals.


  1. Cort Arthur on February 25, 2016 at 8:01 am

    As someone who has a little experience coaching female high school athletes, I think you are on the right track. Truly. As you do it more, I think you’ll notice that working with these athletes is extremely rewarding. Once girls buy in, they work really hard, much harder than guys that age.

    • Carl Case on March 16, 2016 at 9:01 am

      Thanks for the advice Cort. Definitely starting to see that buy more, and hopefully when the season starts that will help as well.

  2. ronelv on February 25, 2016 at 8:08 am

    @carlcase great article dude, you only had three months or continuing working with them ??

    • Carl Case on March 16, 2016 at 9:02 am

      Thank you. I started working with them in November of 2015 and I am continuing to work with the until April when there season really picks up.

  3. Eric Gough on February 25, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I’ve been working with high school girls for a few years now. When you find the girls who “get it” & see the benefit of proper strength training it changes your perspective a little. The girls don’t know more than the trainer like the boys & become very receptive & see great increases in performance.

    I’ve had half a dozen or so girls go on to college athletics in the last 2 years (3 at D1) who have written or called letting me know how thankful they were to have a high school strength coach who cared enough to get them on the right track. Never heard back from a guy…

  4. menacedolan on March 4, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Way to connect my man! All great points, but I’m surprised they didn’t make you dance…it will happen. Girls are athletes too, and many have to play harder and endure more because they think they have to beat the “play like a girl” or not tough enough mentality. Look at the book Warrior Girls, then the ACL article from Tex, and now through you they are well on their way to ensuring a safe and impactful participation. Keep up the good work, for both their physical and mental well being. Nice work!

    • Carl Case on March 16, 2016 at 9:07 am

      thanks @menacedolan. the school gym doesn’t really have much music going in the weight room so they have been bugging me to bring a speaker in, so today I did and their dancing commenced immediately. sounds like your prediction is spot on. I’ll definitely have to check out Warrior Girls.

  5. […] Your Daughter Doesn’t Have to Live in Fear of ACL Injury by Tex McQuilkinBLOG: Creating Connection with Female Athletes by Carl […]

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