As a soccer coach, I really am in a world full of dudes. In the soccer club that I help coach at, 85% of the coaches are men. I am in a role where I am a minority and I often feel I am respected less than that of a male coach - whether by other coaches or even parents. (Disclaimer: That is my feeling. It may not be true, but it is how I have felt.)
Last week, as I was walking up to practice, I passed one of the more experienced male coaches.
As I waved and said, “Hey, coach” he replied with, “Hey sweetie”.
I almost fell over right there. Something about that made me feel looked down upon. With other coaches, he probably would’ve called them by name. It made me feel insecure and angry.
Does this ever happen to you? (Another disclaimer: as a woman in her mid twenties, I may look like I could be in high school) What was it about that name that really made me feel looked down upon as a coach? When I am working, I want to feel respected and equal in authority. I want to feel valued.
The NEXT morning I was playing pick-up soccer with a bunch of guys. This guy kept calling me “hun” and “honey” in what felt like a derogatory way. I was trying to play soccer and show that I can hang and succeed even against the dudes, but right away I felt undermined. I’m not sure if you have experienced this in your playing… or as a female athlete at your school.
Do you ever feel less respected as a female athlete compared to the male athletes?
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I began to wonder... am I just a child? Are they right about me? Am I a young girl who has no business leading and/or playing with guys?
That afternoon I texted my friend to see if she has the same thing happen to her. She immediately was able to relate. But she also said that in these situations, she just gently corrects them! So a conversation might go something like this:
- “Hey sweetie!
- “Hey!” (reach out for handshake or hug) “my name is ____ , btw” OR “You can call me ____.”
I was empowered by her simple encouragement and yet I could not imagine me actually doing it. That’s when it hit me, all this talk had made me shy and fearful. How could these guys’ words have so much a power over me? A simple pronoun can make me feel like a “little girl” who has no business leading, coaching, teaching.
Here’s the truth that it boils down to: All it really is, is a trigger for my deeper insecurities. Some of my deepest fears are that I won’t be respected and that people don’t really care what I have to say. I fear that I’m not worthy of having a voice.
God then reminded me about a man in the Bible named Timothy. Timothy was one of Paul’s disciples in the New Testament. He was a young pastor of a church, new to the ministry, and probably had many doubts about himself. I bet there were several older men who were walking all over Timothy because of his age and insecurities. But in 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul says to him, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity”.
By me hiding and feeling crippled when I sense men, or anyone for that matter, are “looking down on me” or disrespecting me, I am living up to a false expectation that I fear people have for me.
Instead, I can be empowered by the path that Timothy walked. Although I am young and I am a woman in a historically man’s role as a coach, I can set an example. I can be mature in the way that I conduct myself, the way that I communicate, in my faith in Jesus, and my purity. And then, I can pave the way for young women after me!
I can’t control the way that other people see me, or what they think of me. But I can control the way that I carry myself. I can control the way that I live my life. And the more that I am confident in who I am as a leader, the more that others will start to see me that way.
I commission YOU to lead by example. It's time to STEP UP ladies. You are strong and powerful and the way you live your life will speak loudly. Next time someone calls you “sweetie” or “hun”, and it rubs you the wrong way… kindly tell them that you would prefer that they call you by your name. Then remember Paul’s advice to Timothy:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity”.
Hey FAM! I work for Fellowship of Christian Athletes where I specifically run a soccer ministry. I coach soccer all over Orange County and work with female athletes of all ages. I grew up in Southern California and played soccer at Point Loma Nazarene University where I studied exercise science and theology. My passion is to encourage others and bring them closer to Jesus! I'm also love all things Lakers, baking, and my husband Trevor.