The PCA Blog

WEBINAR RECAP: Understanding Body Talk in Sports for a Positive Play Experience

On November 30th, PCA hosted the inaugural session in a three-part webinar series entitled Understanding Body Talk in Sports for a Positive Play Experience.  This was part of our collaboration with Dove BODY CONFIDENT SPORT, a groundbreaking Online Coaching Program created in partnership with Nike. This program is designed to help coaches empower and build body confidence in girls globally. In the webinar we delved into the first session of the Body Confident Athlete program, discussing the impact of body talk in sports on an athlete's body image and sports participation, and discussed strategies to challenge and redirect conversations that may negatively influence body image.

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The panelists included Dr. Emily Kraus Stanford Sports Medicine Physician, Female Athlete Researcher, Valerie Kondos Field Former Head Coach, UCLA Gymnastics, Stacie June Shelton

Global Head of Education and Advocacy, Dove Self-Esteem Project and our Moderator: Marti Reed Director of National Partnerships & DEI Programming Manager, PCA.

The panel discussed concerns about looks and body image, as well as pressure to conform to specific body types, are pervasive challenges for girls. These concerns often lead to avoidance of sports, dropout rates, and the creation of negative sporting experiences. The Body Confident Athlete program is crafted to foster comfort and inclusivity for "girls and young people of all gender identities" in physical activities and sports. Its core objective is to shift the focus from how bodies look to what they can do and experience. Here are some key takeaways for coaches and caring adults from the Body Talk in Sport webinar:

  • Model Body Confident Behavior: Coaches and caring adults should exemplify body confidence through their thoughts, comments, and actions regarding their own bodies.
  • Build Trust and Avoid Assumptions: Establish trust with players by showing empathy, being a non-judgmental space for listening, and avoiding assumptions about abilities based on appearance.
  • Create Individual Connections: Recognize and understand the unique needs and experiences of each player. Building connections on and off the field ensures players feel safe, seen, valued, and heard.
  • Focus on Body Functionality: Shift the narrative by emphasizing and complimenting girls on what their bodies can do and how it makes them feel, rather than concentrating on appearance.
  • Consistent Follow-Up & Ongoing Process of Growth: Body confident conversations are ongoing. Coaches and adults must consistently follow up, check in, and maintain a steady message to affirm and reaffirm a positive sporting environment. Addressing body image and confidence is an evolving process that requires continual assessment, learning, patience, and a willingness to challenge personal thoughts and biases. Recognize that it's okay not to have all the answers. Seek external resources and support when needed. A collaborative effort ensures a holistic and sustained approach to fostering a positive sporting environment.

Our collective commitment to these principles creates a foundation for a sports culture where every participant feels empowered, valued, and free to excel based on their desired goals, irrespective of appearance.

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