How you can overcome imposter syndrome and become a confident ultimate frisbee coach - in less time than you think!

author - melissa witmer coaching

A few weeks ago I was talking to a coach from Syria starting to coach a group of pickup players. With not much more experience than the other players in the group, he naturally felt a bit unprepared.

I see this situation again and again. Coaches are thrust into coaching because no one else volunteers. Or they happen to be the most experienced player in a sea of folks with who are pretty new to the game themselves. That’s how my coaching journey got started.


But the truth is, imposter syndrome isn’t just for new coaches.

Every year when I run the UAP Coaches Conference some coaches say no because they think they don't have anything worth sharing. I’ve heard this from men, women, new but great coaches, veterans, national team coaches - you name it.

I believe that confidence or lack thereof in coaching (or in life) has very little to do with actual credentials or skills. It’s more related to mismatches of expectations, lack of focus, perfectionism, and self consciousness. 

Here are all the reasons real reasons you're lacking confidence in your ultimate frisbee coaching and how you can overcome them one at a time.

Remember all the reasons WHY

Why are you an ultimate frisbee coach right now? Is it because your team needed you? Often new coaches feel like they are coaching because there was no one else who wanted to. So it feels like coaching is a thing they didn’t choose, don’t feel ready for, etc etc.

Even if you're coaching because no one else stepped up to coach, the truth is that you DID step up to coach. Why?

Whatever reason, you chose to do this. So reconnect with why you chose.

Are you happy with your reasons? Are those reason still valid?


Focus on your athletes, not on yourself

In addition to reconnecting with WHY you are coaching, reconnect with WHO you are coaching.

Chances are you like these people (most of the time). What do they need?

Imposter syndrome is simply a variety of self-consciousness. So take the focus off yourself and care about your athletes instead.

If you ask yourself what do they need? - right now, next week, next month - your brain will start generating solutions or noticing relevant information when it becomes available.


Let yourself be terrible

Much of imposter syndrome is simply a fear of failure. Or a fear of being a terrible coach or of having teammates think you are a terrible coach.

Failure is no fun. If you want to become a great coach, you will need to fail sometimes.

But so what? What is the worst that will happen?

Worst case scenario maybe you ARE a terrible coach.

Maybe that will inspire someone else to volunteer next season and do a better job.

Hint - if this thought scares you , it likely means you WANT to remain a coach. You care about coaching. And this is a necessary prerequisite for becoming a truly great coach.

If you are afraid of being terrible, then as long as you can keep going, you probably won’t allow yourself to remain terrible for long. Being afraid means you care. Being afraid of being terrible means you are probably the BEST candidate for getting into coaching. But the first step is the leap from not coaching to feeling terrible at it. And believing that you can figure it out and grow as you go.

In the meantime, rest in the knowledge that mediocre coaching is likely better than no coaching. So you are providing value to your team even if you are beginning your coaching journey before you’re ready.

Get Specific when you feel overwhelmed

We lack confidence when we feel overwhelmed by the task in front of us. It is true that the idea of “coaching” encompasses an impossibly large array of skills and knowledge.

You will never learn all you want to know. Your skills in all areas of coaching will never be perfected. 

When you are feeling a lack of confidence, slow down and ask yourself “What am I thinking about that’s making me uncomfortable?”

And then start to narrow it down to a specific issue.

The first split is identifying whether you have an ultimate knowledge problem or a coaching skills problem.

Are you nervous about tomorrow’s practice? Is it because of the topic you’ll be covering? Maybe you don’t have as much knowledge on that topic as you would like. What can you do now with the knowledge you DO have? If you have an hour, can you acquire a little more knowledge and would that be helpful?

Are you nervous because a particular player interaction is difficult? Or because you don’t know how to explain what you know? These are each different coaching skill issues. You may not be able to solve them overnight. But now you at least know what you need to practice or work on over time. 

Needing to work on a particular skills or lacking a specific area of knowledge does not mean you are a terrible coach. It simply means you’ve found one new thing to work on!

If you can deliberately tackly one thing at a time, over one or two years you will be an above average coach.  Which brings us to the final point….

Becoming an expert frisbee coach takes less time than you think.

It doesn’t take as much time as you think to become an expert ultimate frisbee coach.

It won’t happen over night. But I believe just 1-2 Years of focused study will put you in the top 10% of ultimate coaches.

Why? Because most coaches just coach. Without taking time to reflect on and improve what they are doing.

But expert coaches deliberately practice their coaching skills. They seek out new knowledge and put time and effort into applying what they are learning. 

Right now in ultimate, there simply aren’t that many coaches. And even fewer coaches who are actively improving their coaching skills on a regular basis.

I believe that right now, anyone who puts in 1-2 hours per week of deliberate practice and deliberate study can become one of the top 1000 ultimate coaches in the world within 2-3 years. 

Becoming an expert in a specific area and location is even easier. Try it! Just 1-2 hours/week for the next 8 weeks and see how much you level up. Pick an area of focus to get most noticeable results. And pick a group of folks and be an expert among them. Can you become the top throwing skills coach in your town? Can you become the best mental training coach on your team? Surely you can think of some area in which you can become a relative expert in a short period of time. And if you are capable of that, what else might you be capable of?

Build expertise and confidence, one skill, one region, one area of focus at a time. 

Get support!

By now I hope you are feeling a bit more fired up about your coaching journey.

One thing that will help you stay fired up when your confidence naturally lags is a system of support!

This is among the things we provide in our UAP Coaching Classroom.

When you feel you lack ultimate knowledge, you can find it. When you are working on your coaching skills, you can see how the best coaches approach the issues you’re dealing with.

Plus, you’ll get mentorship and support from a community of coaches who also believe in continuous improvement. 

You can sign up for our UAP Coaches Classroom here

And get started on your journey towards expertise and confidence right now by registering for this year’s UAP Coaches Conference.

Happy Coaching!