November Newsletter

The Mental Aspect of Training:

Every year at this time in the club volleyball world, hundreds of thousands of players are preparing for practices and looking forward to the start of a new season with new teams and teammates. Excitement and anticipation are abundant from players and coaches alike with the renewed vigor of wanting to prove to the country that they are great at the sport by competing and advancing through tournaments. The biggest question is this: is the mindset correctly wrapped around what this all entails? Winning and being a good team and player are great but the “absolute without a doubt “part of this is encompassed by mental strength. As a player, are you mentally ready for what you will have to do in order to accomplish the results that you desire? Are you prepared to practice the correct recovery techniques and practice the right habits that it takes to become that better player? Or do you just want to play the game and expect to get better in the process through the amazing and most overused statement of all….getting touches on the ball. Let me discuss this further.

The mind has to be at the forefront when it comes to being an athlete in any sport. This is the best way to set yourself apart from the other player that is doing it just for fun. And having fun is the benefit of preparing correctly and the driving force behind playing the sport.  However, what exactly are players doing in the allotted time to practice and prepare. Everyone has hours and hours of practice but what mindset are they in? I’m not saying you have to be robotic in nature but to understand the level of performance that can be achieved through some mental checks is something that can be obtained at all levels.

First off, are you willing to open your mind to challenge and criticism? As a player coming into a practice with an open mind to what is out there allows a better flow of energy to be present during the hours of training. Not being open to learning, or thinking, “I got this”, requires a lot of energy because you have to constantly battle to prove yourself. Put the pressure on the coaches to teach you, make them up their level of performance so that they are the ones spending the required energy for you to learn. It becomes easier to improve when you are open to improving instead of just performing. What type of energy do you want to spend during those hours? The type that makes it fun, or the type that makes you battle with yourself to prove a point. Many players will spend weeks trying to make their way work finally realizing that it’s better to open up to the learning process. Some just never open up, and they fail in the long term or are ok with being at the level that they choose. At WVJ, we train the brain first and continue to push that process through an entire season.

Next you want to ask, “Am I willing to push and be ok with failing in order to get what I need?” This means that you will HAVE to make mistakes and be ok with the “ugly” to push past it for the better levels to appear in your training. The sport is a game of errors with spectacular playing a distant second. The less errors that are made the more chances of making that amazing play increase. That is how it works. But are you willing to make that mistake in the training environment; to hear the word no; to force yourself to make the changes necessary and to repeat the process over and over to get the result. Embracing that part of the training is not common which is why there are only a select few players that push into the higher levels of performance. One thing that is enforced at WVJ is that it is ok to completely get it wrong only if you are willing to change because the amount of growth that happens with just that decision is exponential. We come from a world where wrong is bad, failure is not an option, “I cant” overrules “I can” and those are the mental roadblocks that exist in training the sport. It is more than ok and in fact it is welcome to make mistakes in training because it gives you a bar or a marker of where you don’t want to be and will mentally get you stronger because of the refusal to visit that mistake again. Being safe and doing things that are comfortable or feel better is that ugly animal that is telling you to not improve and is holding you back from becoming that strong player that you all want to become. Again at WVJ, the main reason we love the mistake (at practice) is because we can and will train it out of you. The level and style of training exists for that reason only. Repetitions are based solely on the minds ability to overcome and advance and not done because we try to fill a time slot with “touches on the ball”.

The credo or tag line or motto here is MENTAL PHYSICAL VOLLEYBALL and it does not mean the “type” of volleyball we train or play rather, the order of what the sport is. One trainer who is world renowned for physically training actors and athletes etc. says it; “The mind is primary”. In the game of volleyball if you try and physically handle situations and “volleyball your way out of it” lots of things happen. Number one is you get very very tired. Very tired. You have seen or have even done this in practice or games. For example a ball is hit long out of bounds and you muster the frustrated energy to hit it again, harder and into the net. Now the anger is at an all-time high and you demand the ball again and again, an error. Do you know how much negative energy was used in those three points to correct that problem and the score is only 8-10 in set number 1? This is a very weak-minded approach that is seen all over the sport because the mind was never trained to learn through that process rather the body was trained on how to hit the ball inbounds without the idea or tools needed to correct the issue. Those that are strong- minded have accepted that the error will in fact happen, have been welcoming to said error during training and will play an instant recall as how it was fixed in the training environment and all of a sudden they prevail. Next ball goes in, the game moves on and an “I’m better for it” feeling exudes from that player.

Are you that player? Do you even desire to be? It is a mental decision made from the beginning when everyone else is playing queen of the court and you are the one performing purposeful highly focused repetitions. It is VERY possible to be that player at WVJ because it is the only way that is trained. Winning is a consequence of this training and the risk of losing drives us to train it better.


Felipe Coronel
World Volleyball Juniors