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IGNITE Management of Power Struggles

Power struggles occur for many different reasons. Power struggles can be difficult to maneuver, especially when we, as coaches, see the big picture of the season and the athlete(s) only see the current moment and/or practice. The definition of “power struggle”, as defined by Oxford Languages, is: a situation in which two or more people or groups compete for control in a particular sphere. In coaching, we do not want our girls to feel controlled. We want our team to feel empowered, motivated, challenged, successful, and awesome about themselves without feeling overpowered and controlled. In this episode of IGNITE, we will learn effective strategies that will build connections and positively impact your relationship and team for these tricky situations.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen and heard as a passionate, powerful, intense, and zealous speaker and advocate. His words infuriated some and empowered others. His speeches encouraged some and enraged others. Regardless, his words were impactful and great actions happened as a result of his movement. There have been many times when I have been called “mean”, “hard”. and “not nice” while coaching, teaching, and parenting. When this occurs, I sometimes remind myself that my purpose is not to be mean but to be impactful. My purpose is not to be hard or difficult but to be empowering. My purpose is not to be harsh and see someone fail but to be firm and watch someone soar. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a similar purpose and fought for control of peace in the minds of our people. The power struggles we encounter as a GOTR coach may not be on the extreme of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but they are impactful, life-changing, and empowering. Here are STRATEGIES that will help you better manage a power struggle with any girl and/or team:

See the two sides in the situation: hers and yours. She is living in the present moment of the activity or practice. She is reacting/refusing because of the current mood and feelings she is having at the practice. You see the big picture of the practice and/or season. You understand the end goal (i.e. the lesson, the total laps, the 5k).

Bridge the gap of understanding. Educate your team often on the process in simple terms. Remind them often that training takes steps moving forward- big and small- to reach big distances/goals. Cue them in on actions and behaviors that make them a team- running with a partner(s), listening and remembering what teammates have said, and always moving forward.

Give them new vocabulary. A girl may say that we are mean or not nice. Understand that those are the words they have in their vocabulary to identify what they perceive. The reality is when you motivate and empower as a coach, you are PASSIONATE, FIRM and DIRECT, ZEALOUS, have STAR POWER, and STAND BEHIND YOUR/GOTR BELIEFS. A simple correction:

○  “I’m passionate about our team and being successful at the 5K.”
○  “I am making my star power shine to motivate and encourage you to do your best today, tomorrow, and many days in the future.”
○ “I’m firm because I see our amazing team having fun and amazing successes!”

Give positive choices. When a girl refuses to run laps- “There are two choices: 1. Run with a partner. 2. Run by yourself.” OR “1. Run a lap, walk a lap. 2. Run a lap, skip a lap.” OR “You can start now or you can start in 2 minutes after a BREATHER break.” (**Do not give an option that is punitive. This is not a fair choice and may cause more of a power struggle.)

Power struggles are unmotivating and not fun. The positive is that they can be managed and resolved very quickly when control is given to everyone involved. As a coach, you have control of the type of choices given for all situations. Make the choices positive, empowering, and motivating to keep the team spirit moving forward. Stay passionate about your beliefs and the end game. Educate and encourage with awareness and the process of the big picture. IGNITE your star power with understanding, perspective, and a positive attitude!

Shayla A is the Coach Mentor for Girls on the Run Kansas City. Her background comes from the classroom, coaching, day treatment schools, wellness, and advocating for children with special needs. She enjoys empowering and advocating for girls and coaches in every challenge and celebration. Connect with her for support and assistance this season via Leigh Krtec.


  • Power Struggles: Successful Techniques for Educators by Allen N. Mendler The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams





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We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Non-profit girl empowerment after-school program for girls.

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