How to Raise Competitive Girls

Today is a first for me and I’m really excited about it. I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about how to raise competitive girls!

No, not really.

I’m excited because I have a guest blogger!

And I get to be a guest blogger!

Eli from Coach Daddy and I are swapping places. We’ve got a lot in common…he lives in Charlotte, I love (and lived in) Charlotte; he writes a smart and funny blog, I laugh while I’m reading it; he’s a dad, I have a dad.

All kidding aside – you know you’ve found a blog to return to, as I have with Eli’s, when you laugh out loud, enjoy the photos and fall in love with the style of writing. Eli has a great way of wording things that is engaging, witty and wise.

I say wise because if you catch any of the posts in his “Go Ask Daddy about …” series, I dare you to say you didn’t learn something. 

Please welcome Eli here, at “So, I’ve been thinking…” and when you’re done reading and commenting below please come visit me at his place, Coach Daddy, where I’m calling out bad behavior from the parents on the sidelines.


how to raise competitive girls


How to Raise Competitive Girls

It’s just a game?

Yeah right.

When the ball drops or the tiles fall or the deck shuffles, my daughters, 9, 13 and 16, play for keeps. Usually, they take it out on other people’s kids on the soccer pitch. Or the wrath falls on their siblings. With marbles. Wii games. Even Candyland.

To raise competitive girls takes the nerves of a lion tamer and the thick skin of an anklosaurus. It takes the good sense to duck when the balls, bats, or gingerbread men start to fly.

Competitive girls get a bad rap. They suffer from the mean girl syndrome, which tells us a girl can’t fight like hell on the field or court and keep her good humor. But in the heat of battle (except for in Candyland), I see girls fight to the finish in a soccer match – then hug their opponent after.



Let them battle – even their friends.

My youngest daughter, Grace, is 9.

We’ll call her best friend Bailee. They’re thrilled when they get to play on the same soccer team. When they do this for their school in three years, they will be double trouble. Grace once taught Bailee The Move. It’s less than savory. When it’s done, your opponent eats grass.

Bailee turned it on Grace the moment she learned it.

They still hugged after practice. No hard feelings. Competition doesn’t trump true friendship.

Until it does. As in, the day your bestie plays for another team.

The first time they squared off, they hugged, but just that silly shoulder hug boys do. Then they used The Move on each other many times.

“Against your best friend?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Grace said. “We’re not best friends right now. But after the season, we will be.”

And they were.


Let them stand up for themselves.

My oldest daughter, Elise, is 16, and hates to lose. She hates to back down twice as much.

She has a move we like to call The Dance. She shields the ball with her body and backs herself along the sideline against her opponent. Come left to tackle the ball from her, you’ll meet her left elbow. Come right, you’ll get acquainted with her right one. Either way, you’ll get hip checked, then blown past.

One boy in a co-ed game rushed to her on the sideline many times, trying to undercut her before The Dance could begin. He met both elbows. Yet, he persisted.

I looked away for just a moment, and heard a whistle.

When I looked up, the boy was on the ground. Elise stood over him. The official pointed toward Elise’s team’s goal as the kid got up to dust himself off. He earned that penalty kick.

He didn’t try and stop The Dance again.


Let them develop rivalries

Marie, my middle daughter, is 13. She has low tolerance for fear and high appreciation for things that invoke it. Especially when that thing is her.

She faces double- and triple-teams on the field, and takes home the bumps and bruises to prove it. Unlike her sister, she won’t put a kid on his keister to prove a point.

But she will put up a good fight.

She gives and takes motivation from her rival at school, Bela. The push each other at cross-country finish lines. They challenge each other in soccer practice. They’re so much alike, and it irks them both. Their coach sent them on a free-for-all one-on-one match after one soccer ball.

Several minutes and a sustained scuffle later … Marie emerged with the ball. Both disheveled, ponytails loosened, arms bearing scratches and other evidence of battle.

# # #

It’s not easy to raise competitive girls. I want them to have a tough core, and soft edges.

The tough core is easy; not so the soft edges.

We got a call from Marie’s school last year after the teacher caught her cheating on a math test.

Why? Was it the competitive fire gone too far?

Turns out, she shared her work with another girl.

Turns out, the girl she shared answers with was Bela. Her rival.

I’d have given up pizza for month to hear that conversation as they walked to the office.

# # #

When he’s not in the emergency room with one daughter or watching another eat up the pavement, Eli Pacheco writes the blog Coach Daddy. Follow him on Google Plus and Twitter.


  1. It’s an honor to be here, Stephanie! Thanks for the space – and for the awesome post at my place. I’ll be sure to wipe my feet before I come in.

  2. I love reading about Eli’s adventures raising girls because I’ve got two daughters and I want them to display the same steely determination on the field and compassion off it!

  3. Pingback: Guest Post: Stephanie of So I’ve Been Thinking, on Sports Parents Behaving Badly |

  4. Competitive girls…yes I believe I am a little familiar with this topic, as I think you are too, Steph! 🙂 Mine loves a good competition and a hard fight. She had to play one of her best soccer buds in the high school conference championship last fall…a game her team lost in double overtime. It was hard fought. But she texted her friend afterwards to say congratulations.

  5. Both of my girls are totally competitive at their young ages and you give some great advice here Eli, but then again I wouldn’t expect anything less. Love that you two swapped today and headed over to Eli’s now to read Stephanie’s insight on this, too 🙂

  6. Oh that last bit! I love it. Enough to give up pizza, yes.
    The jury is still out on mine, and I can’t wait to see what develops. So far, zero interest in team sports although both are definitely athletic in their tiny ways.

    • I thought you’d feel me on that one, Tamara. You know I’m serious when I offer up the pie.

      You’re in for a ride when it comes to discovering what stirs your kid. They’re young yet – you’ll see.

    • Eli is right, it is fun (and sometimes trying) as they figure out what they like and what they are good at – which is sometimes not the same thing. The best thing we ever did was let two of ours take breaks when they weren’t sure about a sport or activity, we let them choose and didn’t sign them back up unless they really wanted to do it.

  7. Loved, loved, loved reading about THE MOVE, THE DANCE and THE MATH TEST!
    Your girls mean business for sure!
    Before you give up pizza – have you asked her?

  8. Great read and thoughts. I think this is an equally hard thing when trying to teach our kids to stick up for themselves in situations, with friends or adults while trying to remain respectful. No, it is not easy to raise competitive girls, it’s not easy to raise girls period! 😉

    • Thanks Valerie. It’s a tough balance, when to fight and when to back down. The toughest part of raising my competitive girls is that they’re always tough – I wonder if they feel they have to prove something.

    • Tru dat Valerie! Girls bring special challenges…..and abilities. I am struck by the issue just about each day as I watch female engineers try to make it in a male dominated environment. We, as a society, are still way too dismissive of a woman’s capabilities. I have learned to embrace the fact that men,,,,on average can lift more than a woman, and with that, I have come to know that women have abilities in many areas (on average) that men lack and would do well to appreciate.

      P.S. Steph, can you coach me on the run on sentence issue I have? 😉

      • Pep – thank you for commenting and I think you bring to light why many girls and women do become aggressive – Eli hit it right on the head – feeling like they have to prove something. And yet, sometimes, they do.

    • Yes, you and I both know girls are definitely different than boys when it comes to, well, everything. I think specifically keeping the competitive streak alive and healthy without crossing over into meanness and bullying (and arrogance). El and I talk a lot about this stuff I want her to know when to be aggressive and when to pull back.

  9. What a great idea to switch places for a blog session (not that I don’t enjoy reading yours Steph, so put the paranoia back down!). Eli- although I don’t have a sporty girl, she is determined and as confident as yours. I can see her use those moves against people in daily life (not physically, but mentally) it is so important to raise girls with a “can do” attitude. And Stephanie, you are doing an incredible job with that with Ella!!

    • It was good to mix it up today, Mikki. What is your daughter determined and confident about? I love when they believe in themselves – that’s the best move they can learn in life. Ella’s a lucky girl, isn’t she?

    • Funny Mikki. I totally get what you are saying about this applying outside of sports and I’m glad you made that point – I hadn’t thought about it that way. I totally see that in Tess, too. Thank you!

  10. Ah the competitive core with the soft edges. I’ve told my girls many a time that there is a big difference between being a strong woman and a tough broad. Hey.. don’t forget that I’d love to share your posts over at Ten to Twenty!!!! You, too Steph! 🙂

    • It’s a tough combination to get, Kristen. I think you should write about the differences between a strong woman and a tough broad. Should we just send you the links to posts for Ten to Twenty?

    • Thanks Kristen, I’d love that. I’ve read your writing and thoughts on how to be a strong woman and it was the first time I’d actually considered it – that there was a difference, that there should be a difference, that the line can be subtle and you owe it to yourself and your daughters to teach them the difference.

  11. Oh yes really brave steps you have taken.Good job.
    keep it up.

  12. Pingback: I'm Done With School, but... - "So, I've been thinking..."

  13. Pingback: Exposed for #AskAwayFriday - "So, I've been thinking..."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.