This article is Part II in Robyn’s series on D-Line Swag. Part I on the importance of swag can be found here.
When I originally heard the poem “Shrinking Women” by Lily Myers a couple of years ago, it struck a chord. For women, especially athletes, it’s that much harder to find our swagger because even as we find our strengths and feel confident in them, they continue to be measured to those of our male counterparts. Finding that confidence to know and own our strengths is more difficult when we are belittled in the comment section of every video, article, or photo online. It takes swagger to be a female athlete, even though our swagger can be elusive and delicate. Even when we find it, it can just as easily be lost.
After writing Part 1, throughout several conversations with some incredible women over email and in between games at Florida Winter Classic, it really occurred to me that swagger isn’t something that you gain and magically keep, but it is something that you have to cultivate and work to keep. This idea of finding and holding onto your swagger is a powerful part of the individual and team journey in our sport.
The importance of finding this unrelenting confidence in your strengths, while remaining humble and hardworking, makes watching the journey of a team like Nightlock that much more incredible. Every single player on that team knows their strengths and how those strengths fit into a particular role. They also seem to understand their team identity and get some extra confidence from the “GRIT” that drives their team to improve. It also seems like these women work hard together to hold onto their confidence. When you put that together, you get a team that qualified for the Pro-Flight in only its third season as a team. That is pretty impressive if you ask me.
So how do you find your swagger?
- Reflect: What do I bring to the table? What does my team bring to the table? Knowing your strengths (individually and your team) is the most crucial piece of the puzzle. The scary part is that you have to be brutally honest about it.
- Understand: What is my role? How can I succeed in this role? How do my strengths allow me to thrive in this role and really contribute to my team’s success? How can I make sure I’m doing my part to contribute wholeheartedly to my team’s success? If you can’t answer these questions, you need to ask the people in charge what your role is. What is apparent to one person (your coach or captain), might not be apparent to you. You might overlook the value of a certain role because you don’t understand it. Chances are that you’re in a certain role for a reason. Before you start complaining, ask some specific questions and follow them up with clarifying questions until everyone is on the same page.
- Accept: Your role is equally important as everyone else’s role on your team. Never rank or belittle someone’s role on your team, including your own. Recognize that every role is important to achieving your team’s success. The minute you start ranking certain roles as higher status roles or classifying others’ roles as less important, the sooner you become your team’s impediment to achieving goals.
In the end there are a lot of similarities about finding your swagger and keeping it through obstacles that get thrown at you. At the end of the end of the day, it is all about what you have that is unique and wearing it on your sleeve with confidence. Your answer to this question might change depending on the day, but the confidence you have in yourself and your teammates’ abilities shouldn’t.
Even on my worst of days when I feel like I could curl up into a ball, or when I’m convinced my team could do better off without me touching the disc on O, it doesn’t matter what my head tells me. My heart knows I can bring it on D. Even when I’m throwing turnover over turnover, my teammates know that the way to clear my head is to let me play D. For me, that’s what it is all about.
So once you find your swagger, how do you keep it? The easiest thing to do is to make sure to surround yourself with a team full of other players who know what you can do and can believe in you to do it no matter what. They trust in you to flourish in a particular role, and can expect you to get it done without putting pressure on you to do it.
Why is swagger important to a team? It’s what defines their work ethic, the way they play, the way celebrate, and the place they draw inspiration. Swagger is about belonging to a group who knows exactly what you bring to the table, and loves you anyways.