You’d be forgiven for thinking that confidence comes easy to Irish Olympian Sophie Becker, but, just like everybody else, it’s something she continues to work at.
The 400m sprinter needs that final confidence boost from those in her inner circle to make sure she can compete at the highest level, exemplified none more than in her coach, Aideen Sinnott, of Dublin Sprint group.
From the first time they met, Becker laid her intentions bare.
Looking back, she admits that perhaps she herself didn't even believe she could achieve her wildest dreams just yet, but Sinnot sure did.
“I asked her what her aspirations were and Sophie sat in front of me and said, ‘I’m going to go to the Olympics’, and I said ‘you will’,” Sinnot explains.
“I still have that piece of paper where I wrote that down, and I showed it to her after the Olympics.
“She did go.”
“I did believe that I would do it…” Becker says, although you can sense there’s a ‘but’ coming.
“But you don’t fully believe it maybe,” Sinnot adds, greeted with an “exactly” confirmation from Becker, followed by a “you say it but you’re kind of saying it like daringly I think.”
“There’s still 10% that I just can’t fulfil, and I need that other confidence from Aideen and my coaches because I trust that what they’re doing is going to bring me to the next level and push me on”.#KeepHerConfident #Dove pic.twitter.com/9M7CIkSXvP
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) December 1, 2023
Sophie Becker 's confidence growing up
Ever since Becker began playing sport as a child, she was always searching for that confidence.
“I would have been quite a shy person I’d say,” she describes.
“My parents threw me into every single sport under the sun to try and just get me out of my shell.
“I found confidence in my speed. I realised I was fast and that it was something that I was good at, so I think that kind of helped grow my confidence throughout the years.”
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) November 28, 2023
In her experience, Becker has always found the athletics community to be very inclusive and understanding of people of all shapes, sixes and backgrounds.
That doesn’t mean however that at times things weren’t difficult, everyone can feel anxious at times, especially in your early teenage years.
“When you’re 10,11 or 12 everyone's wearing the singlets and the longer shorts and everything, and then there’s a certain moment maybe when you’re 14, or 15, or 16 that suddenly it’s like ‘oh, we’re wearing crop tops now’ or ‘oh, my shorts are a little bit shorter’,” Becker says.
“Obviously you don't have to do that, but I suppose I don’t know it just kind of happens, like how can you not feel self conscious in that?”
With that in mind, it’s understandable that the dropout rate amongst young girls in sport is as high as it is, but perhaps this can be combated with adequate resources and informed coaches such as Sinnot, helped along by organisations such as Dove who promote body confidence and positivity.
They add that extra sprinkling of reassurance, built on a foundation of trust, through some encouraging words or just a knowing look, that can make all the difference.
“Affirmation for any athlete is important because they don't see the bits that are good. They often actually see the bits that are bad,” Sinnot says.
“It’s not always about winning. People will have years where they feel with sport that it’s not going so well. At the end of the day it’s about just being there with other people participating. Then once you can encourage that and you have some resources there, and if you can identify reasons why you’re enjoying your sport, then you’ll grow to love it.
“If coaches have resources they can turn to, they can communicate that sport is what prepares you for life.”
Such helping hands can be found at Bodyconfidentsport.com, thanks to an exciting move from Dove and Nike to launch the Body Confident Sports programme.
If you are a coach, volunteer, parent or guardian make sure to check out the video on YouTube.
Learn about the Body Confident Sport Programme here: https://t.co/PjvQOOrsaD
Watch the full video here:https://t.co/UQuFjTOs7z#KeepHerConfident #Dove
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) November 28, 2023
Nearly 50% of girls in Ireland feel that coaches need more support to foster confidence, and the programme steps in precisely here. It equips coaches with the materials needed to tailor their approach, creating an environment that inspires body confidence and sets the stage for success. The Body Confident Sports programme is a groundbreaking, evidence-based coaching toolkit tailored for 10 to 17-year-old girls. Accessible online, it equips coaches and mentors with the resources to inspire body confidence and empower girls for success - delivering tools to enhance girls' body confidence, body image, and self-esteem through various organizations, schools, and sports clubs.