As volleyball tournament season is approaching, it’s time for most of us to put away the “over-eating-of-turkey-and-pumpkin-pie” days behind us and proactively prepare mentally and physically for game wins.
1. PRACTICE FOR THE GAME, NOT JUST PRACTICE:
You either love or hate drills, I know! However, the hate of drills for some people may actually be for a good reason. Drills are made for improving parts of your play such as quick reaction, your short line shot or serve, etc.
However, when you think about playing in a game, it is full of surprises- you thought your partner was setting you high but it went low instead. It’s chaotic- your opponent may spike it to you in 3 different places in 3 consecutive plays all within the same rally and have you running, digging and sweating all over the place. And it’s complete- you don’t start a game with someone providing a perfect pass to you so that you can set it tight and high how your partner likes it in order for them to be in the perfect position to slam it down into the open corner of the opponent’s court. It starts with a serve and ends with an out.
In the same way, when doing drills, make them gamelike.
An article by Team USA it says that “as with reading and learning being the most important skills in volleyball, we need to create learning of reality reading based opportunities.”
In the article, it mentions Dr. Schmidt, one of the top teachers and authors in the science of motor learning, asked many volleyball coaches regarding drills “ARE YOU PRACTICING FOR PRACTICE OR FOR PERFORMANCE?”
When you’re out there with your friends peppering, drilling or just playing nonchalant games, think about the tournaments ahead of you as if they’re right there in the moment. Drill starting with serves sometimes, allow drills to be chaotic as real-life games are, and play your hardest.
2. PUSH YOURSELF TO BE BETTER THAN LAST TIME:
This may seem obvious to push yourself, but it can also be overwhelming. The sky may be your limit but if you look up there and see how high it goes, it may make you feel like your goals are unachievable.
In American Volleyball Coaches Association, Meggie Gradel says, “The best advice out there to persevere is to think to yourself, "one more." One more sprint, one more dig, one more ace. Don't think beyond that one more. You fight through it and finish that sprint, and say to yourself again, “one more.”
“By saying this after each situation you find impossible, you are actually pushing yourself to be better than the last time. It also tricks your mind into thinking that after this one you can be finished.”
Choose one way you want to be better than last time and be specific about it. Maybe this would be to try and touch every ball that comes your way no matter how impossible it seems to get, or to quicken the speed of getting up after you dig a ball. Whatever it is, be clear about your goal(s), start small, and work your way up.
3. PREPARE MENTAL CONFIDENCE:
When you can learn how to be confident during practice games, it will carry over when you’re in a tournament game. Don’t wait to become confident in a tournament. If you struggle with low self-talk in your practice games, guess how your self-talk will be later? Most likely, it will be even worse.
Confidence doesn’t mean cockiness, however. Cockiness creates an attitude that keeps you from improving and keeps you from being teachable. Confidence allows you to think highly of yourself, yet knowing there is always room to get better.
Podium Sports Journal says that mental confidence “requires the player to “let go” of mistakes quickly and efficiently. Optimal confidence leans towards overconfident. When performance is going well and mistakes are made, self-confidence is hardly moved.”
In an article by Competitive Advantage, it states: “Remind yourself of everything you’ve done to prepare.” In this way, make sure you prepare! Physical preparation above and beyond your competitors goes a long way. “Focus on what you can control.” In this way, don’t get down by focusing on how your opponent or partner are playing, or how the weather is. Focus on what you can control. “Dwell on the positive.” “Catch yourself doing things right.”
Mental confidence is just as important and being physically ready. Your brain controls your actions so if it is telling your body that you are capable, your body will be able to fulfill the actions.