Part 1. Intro
Growing up playing volleyball, my dad was a HUGE influence on the values that I developed within the world of sports. He instilled within me a love of the game, pride, integrity, and passion. One of the best skills he ever taught me was a desire to search for the lessons in any loss. Any time I played poorly or my team lost, my dad would have me ask myself what I had learned. What could I take away from that loss? What did I learn about myself, my play, my team and what could I do differently in order to improve my game. This post competition reflection is something I’ve held on to throughout the course of my career and it’s something I still do to this day. Not only that, but it’s a skill that’s transformed into a post-match state of reflection regardless of the outcome. Winning or losing doesn’t matter, there’s always a lesson to be learned.
Now, this reflection isn’t something I spend hours on. It’s maybe 5-10 minutes after every match where I think about 2-3 big things I want to focus on in the next few days of training in order to improve my game. This habit is one that I rely heavily on within my career and I hope it’s a skill other young athletes are learning to cultivate as well.
Keeping this hope in mind, I want to start sharing what it is I learn after every match in order to achieve two goals. One, I want/hope other athletes can learn something from the lessons I learn because they can relate to the struggle/situation/grind. And two, it can help other athletes cultivate a positive and healthy habit of reflection. It’s basically an “I-do-something-stupid-and-you-can-learn-from-my-stupidity-if-you’d-like” type deal!
Taking time to stop and quickly review your play post competition develops strong mental habits, cleaner more disciplined play, and a growth mindset attitude. All great skills to have as an athlete! I hope this is something younger athletes, especially, can take to heart and use to help develop their game. Great day to have a day, what can we take away from it!
Part 2. What’d We Learn: Caserta
I went into the Caserta game with two things in mind. I wanted to have a loaded blocking position when I was in “base” which means at the start of every rally when my team was serving I wanted to be totally still with my knees slightly bent in a loaded position and my hands hips width apart at the base of the net, ready to fly over the net. This would enable me to react to the middle attack more efficiently and be ready to read the setter and react to my read quickly as well. I also I wanted to focus on my mental routine from the service line. I.e. having a good breath in my service routine, keeping my one-liner (a thought that I think to myself before every serve to give me confidence. I switch between “good hand contact, here” and “let’s blow ’em up”) in mind, and maintaining a flat and clean serve.
We ended up winning the match 3-1 and I wasn’t completely enthralled with my performance, but I had kept my focuses in mind. My blocking focus went really well and my mental game from the service line got some practice. The key lessons that I learned were these three things.
One, proper body prep before a match is key. In this case, a good full 8 hours of sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep helps me feel my best and is something I need to make sure I have the night before a match. The night before this match I got around 6.5 hours a sleep and I could feel the difference. I wasn’t exhausted, but I certainly felt a more tired than usual!
Two, slow to fast footwork when attacking in front of the setter is crucial. There were a few times during the match where my setter and I didn’t connect all that well. Those misconnects could be remedied if I can be sure to maintain a slow first step or two and then have an explosive third and fourth step before I jump in order to explode off the ground and create a good window for my setter to set the ball too.
Third and finally, that serve routine works really well for me, but I need to make sure I take a breath! Taking a breath gives me a moment to collect my thoughts, not rush to my serve, and help me get mentally prepped to put forth my best serve in that moment. That deep breath goes a long way!
So moving forward this week in practice, I want to be sure that I’m getting a good night’s sleep, that I am going sloowwwww to fast during attacking reps with my setter, and that I really focus on adding that breath to my service routine.
Looking forward to another good week of work before our next match against Bergamo! Let’s get after it!!!