[This is a repost from 2 volleyball seasons ago. I’ve had a few conversations recently that led me to pull this lesson back out as a reminder to all of us.]
I talk a lot about our daughter in my blogs. I can’t help it. I find her to be amazing, intriguing, and witty. I guess you can say she’s pretty much my hero. It seems like every time I turn around, I’m learning something else from her or she’s reinforcing a life lesson that I know deep down to be true but sometimes find it hard to implement. This past weekend was no exception.
Our daughter plays travel volleyball. She works very hard and her dedication is evident in the vast improvement she has made since the beginning of the season. (Oh, and did I mention that she tried out last year and didn’t even make the team? She worked really hard over the summer and ended up making it this season – that’s just another example of her perseverance and maybe a potential topic for a future post.)
Even with all of the improvements this year, she still has a long way to go. One of the areas that we’ve been focusing on is her blocking. She plays middle hitter and is tall enough, jumps high enough, and is fast enough to be an efficient blocker. However, she has been reluctant to be aggressive at the net. She’s afraid she will miss-time her jump or have noodle hands and therefore just mess up the play instead of making one. We spend a lot of time encouraging her with the hopes that she’ll just give it a try on a regular basis.
She recorded her first official block at this past weekend’s tournament! It was amazing and the look on her face was worth a million dollars. Her whole team erupted with cheers and I think she finished the day about a foot taller than she started the day. It was incredible and her excitement was contagious. There was an extra bounce in her step and she can’t wait to get out there and do it again. We may have created a monster!
But, she didn’t just step out on the court that day and get a block the first time she jumped. She had to jump, and jump, and jump before it happened. Here is how it went down.
- Don’t think too hard
When she plays on instinct and without fear, she can be a pretty aggressive player at the net. She has been demonstrating this in practice over the past couple of weeks and has been surprising herself with just how effective she can be when she just goes for it. Game time is a whole different ball game because she has been working hard to gain the respect of her teammates, many who have been playing travel ball for a while, and she doesn’t want to make any mistakes and disappoint them.
On her first opportunity to block at the net, she missed and the ball fell behind her. I immediately turned to my husband and said, “She’s thinking too hard.” You could see it all over her face. The second opportunity came and there was a similar result. The third came and she missed again. Three attempts and three failures. Then she stopped trying. Not only did she stop playing at the net on defense, her hitting was less aggressive and you could see her thinking too hard even on that phase of her game.
Over thinking was getting in the way of her instinct. The “what ifs”, doubt that she could execute, and fear of not doing it correctly were keeping her from just going for it. We as adults do this every day. We over think to the point of paralysis. We do this as parents, we do this as employees, we do this as entrepreneurs, and we do this as people. What if I don’t do it perfectly? What if people don’t like what I’m doing? What if I find out I’m not any good at this? The “what ifs” keep us from going for it. Don’t over think it, just do it.
- Don’t let naysayers get in your way
As I said earlier, after she missed her first three attempts, she stopped jumping at all. She didn’t look like herself on offense either and I could tell she was pretty disappointed. After the match, I asked her what was going on. She said that after she missed those blocks a couple of her teammates approached her and told her to stop trying to do something that she obviously couldn’t do. They said she was messing it up for the team (even though they won the match) and she needed to stop. They took whatever ounce of confidence that she did have and smashed it. She told me she was not going to attempt to block for the rest of the tournament because it just wasn’t worth it.
We spent some time talking about what happened. We talked about her teammates’ frustrations and then we talked about how to get her back into her game. Eliminating her defensive play at the net was getting her out of her rhythm on the offensive side and that was more damaging than her three missed blocks. We talked about the technical side of her block and she admitted she was putting way too much thought into each jump for fear she would mess up instead of just letting her instinct take over.
She didn’t attempt much else at the net for the rest of the day. She had let her teammates rattle her enough that she wasn’t willing to try. I was disappointed in her reaction but understood. We’ve all been there. I would say that probably everyone reading this has been in a situation where they have ignored their instincts or changed their path because others didn’t think they could do it. No one wants to disappoint those they care about and often times we will lose touch with who we are at our core in order to appease others. That could be through choosing a career path because our parents thought it was the responsible thing to do or marrying a certain person because they come from “good stock” or not reaching outside of our comfort zone because others don’t think we will be successful.
Letting naysayers get the best of us keep us from reaching our potential. Listen to your gut and don’t let the naysayers get in your way. Luckily, last weekend was a two-day tournament and our daughter decided that on day two she was going to ignore the naysayers. (It also didn’t hurt that I bribed her with cash if she got a block. I won’t lie. Bribery can be an effective motivator. I even bribe myself at times to reach the next milestone or take a step outside of my comfort zone. I encourage all of you to try it sometime.)
- Visualize, practice, do
In the car to the tournament site on day one, our daughter announced that she thought something big was going to happen during the weekend. She said that different scenarios kept playing through her mind. Either she was going to serve an ace for a match win or she was going to make an awesome dive to save the ball and keep it in play. She didn’t know exactly what it was going to be but she just had this feeling that she was going to make a big play of some sort.
None of those things happened on day one.
In the car to the tournament site on day two, our daughter announced that she still felt like she was going to make a big play. Since it didn’t happen on day one she just knew it would happen on day two.
That was pretty much the end of the conversation.
Before the second set of the final match started, I noticed her standing at the net practicing her blocking. She was jumping with purpose and intention – two things we talk about with blocking all of the time. My husband elbowed me to see if I had noticed what she was doing. I had never seen her do this before so of course I was curious about what was going through that brain of hers. I was hopeful that she had decided to do what she knew she could do and not let her teammates convince her that she couldn’t.
Shortly into that set, it happened! She jumped with purpose and intention and she got her first block. She spun around and looked at the two of us on the sideline with her eyes the size of saucers and the largest smile I have ever seen on her face. Everyone went crazy!
After the match she couldn’t stop talking about it. She said that she just knew that something big was going to happen and so she decided her big thing was going to be to finally get her first block. She said that when she stepped on to the court, she wanted to get that block so badly that she went to the net and practiced while visualizing the ball hitting her hands and going back onto the opponents side of the court. She decided it would happen, she visualized it happening, she practiced for the moment, and she did it.
What big things could you do every day if you decided, visualized, practiced, and took action? I bet the sky is the limit!
- Celebrate the little wins – it makes you hungry for more
Not a single person told her, “Well, it’s about time.” They all ran to her and celebrated with her. She didn’t win an Olympic medal with that block. They didn’t even win that match. But she reached a very important milestone in her development as a volleyball player and she accomplished the goal that she set out for herself that day. And it felt good. It felt so good she can’t wait for the opportunity to do it again.
And that’s what happens when you celebrate the little wins. It keeps you motivated and it keeps you hungry for more.
Imagine the greatness you can accomplish in your life if you are willing to not think too hard, not let naysayers get in your way, visualize/practice/do, and celebrate the little wins. Even though she almost let a few mistakes side line her, her desire to reach her personal goal eventually silenced the doubts in her head and silenced the doubts of those around her. If you are committed and passionate about what you do, don’t ever let a few missteps keep you from going forward.
PS: Thanks to my husband for suggesting the topic for this week’s post. You are so great at helping me find inspiration in all that goes on around us.