I work with quite a few teenage female athletes. On more than one occasion, I’ve been told that their coaches are telling them to bring out their “inner bitch” in competition. And recently, I’ve been told that a coach told his whole team that they need to be bigger bitches when they compete. The young women are usually pretty confused, because they don’t feel like they’re a bitch, and they don’t really understand how to be one.

Honestly, I hear this pretty consistently, and every time, I want to scream! Look, I’m not stupid, I totally understand what the coaches are trying to communicate. They want them to be more aggressive, maybe a little angry when they compete. They probably think these young women look too meek, calm or laid back, and they want them to get “angry”.

I have two things to say about this. First, let’s be clear; bitch is a derogatory word toward a woman. It’s not something to be proud of, it’s not something we ever want to be called. When you think of a bitch, it’s an angry, mean, bitter, unhappy woman that is “too much” for most people. Bitch is NOT a compliment. And it’s not a word that we, as adults, should be using toward any woman, let alone a young woman that is growing and figuring out who she is!

If you want her to get angry, tell her to get angry. If you want her to be aggressive, then tell her to be aggressive. The word bitch needs to stop! Immediately!

And second, women are unique and complex and deep. Telling every woman on your team to get angry before they compete is absurd. Do you think Missy Franklin gets angry before she swims? Ha! She’s laughing and singing and dancing! Because that is what she needs to do to swim fast! Every woman is different. Does getting angry or aggressive work for some? Absolutely. I know some women that like to walk into competitions with a chip on their shoulder. But it doesn’t work for everyone; and it is a coaches job to help these young women figure out what is best for them as individuals before they compete. Not assume that they all need to be angry!

We wonder why so many women feel unworthy. We wonder why so many women feel like they’re “too much” or never enough. Let’s make sure we, as the adults, are doing everything in our power to allow these young women to grow up feeling equal and unique and empowered! Let them grow up knowing they have a right to be angry and not be called a bitch. They have a right to be aggressive and not be called a bitch. They have a right to stand up for themselves, state their opinions and let their voices be heard without being called a bitch.

We, the adults, need to be wiser with our words.

And if I haven’t made my point, then think about this; when you tell a woman to be a bitch, you want her to compete strong, angry and aggressive. But to a man, being called a bitch means he’s being a “wuss” or “too much like a girl.” Come on! We’ve got to do better! Wake up in 2018!