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Posted On: 11/25/18 1:36 PM
If you are looking to play collegiately, I applaud you! It takes an extreme amount of mental toughness and dedication, but is more than rewarding in the end. Here are a few things I learned through college volleyball that I hope will help you as you take this remarkable journey.
Put in the time
You may have been able to get by in high school and club without putting much time in outside of practice to improve your skill, but in college, it will be expected of you. There will always be someone gunning for your position. Don’t let that stress chip away at your confidence but instead be the hardest worker on the team. Put in time outside of practice to improve your skill by getting reps in the gym alone, with a teammate, or with a coach to fine-tune your skill and focus on technique. Prepare yourself for competition by studying film on a regular basis. Give yourself the best opportunity to compete by making sure that you get adequate sleep and consume a quality diet to fuel your body and mind.
Have short term memory
Playing collegiately is tough. The practices are harder, competition is tougher, workouts are longer, and some playing environments are downright hostile. Unfortunately, there is nothing that will prepare you for this besides implementing “short term memory” techniques. When you make a mistake, brush it off and always look forward. Dwelling on the past does nothing except inhibit your performance. Everyone makes mistakes, so learn to accept them and move on.
Work on the mental game
Perhaps the most underrated element of volleyball is the mental aspect of the game. Volleyball is a head game, and the higher you climb the ladder in terms of level of play, the more likely it is to affect you. Performance anxiety comes with sports. I went through it, college and professional athletes go through it, it is a normal thing and not something to be embarrassed about. Prepare yourself by practicing meditation, visualization, statements of confidence, and any other forms of focus exercises that work for you. The mental part of the game is just as important as the physical part. You won’t play well if you take a week off from practices, just as you cannot expect yourself to perform well if you don’t take some time to get mentally prepared and focused.
Become an excellent time manager
I quickly learned with the time demands of college volleyball that scheduling is key! Planning ahead for homework, individual workouts, meals, and social activities prior to the week eliminates so much stress on heavy travel and competition weekends. I felt most comfortable scheduling out what assignments I was going to finish on what days, when I was going to go in for extra reps, and what nights I was going to hang out with friends. Maintaining a social life on top of school and volleyball is essential to your mental health; you need a break in your busy schedule to relax!
Understand that it’s ok to ask for help
Whether it be going in for extra reps with a coach, or seeking advice from a sports psychologist, it’s ok to ask for help. Every athlete goes through lows, whether it is physical or mental and needs a little help getting out of it. That is perfectly normal! This is something I struggled with in college, as being independent was important to me and I let my pride get in the way of getting help. Seeking help does not make you weak, in fact, it is the first step to becoming stronger! The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will be back to playing confidently and owning the court.
Take advantage of every opportunity possible
College volleyball will present you with many opportunities, whether it be invites to summer camps to continue to develop your skill or playing overseas for a summer. Whatever the situation, take it. Not only will these opportunities develop your skill and make you a better competitor, but they will connect you with more opportunities to continue playing down the road, whether it be college beach or playing professionally. Many once in a lifetime opportunities will present themselves before you in college. Make the most of them, because they’ll pass you by before you know it.
Appreciate it while you can
College volleyball goes by fast. For me, each passing year seemed to move faster than the one before. In what seems like the blink of an eye, your playing career will be over and you then have to concern yourself with adult things. Trust me, there will be days you hate it. When the practices become mundane, lifting becomes a chore, traveling breaks your sleep cycle, and the stresses of competing get to you; you will wish for an end. College volleyball will test your limitations and push you to breaking points. But in the end, I promise you it is so worth the struggle. You will have the greatest experiences of your life, form lasting bonds with teammates, and compete at an extremely high level. In my opinion, there isn’t anything better than playing a sport at the collegiate level. So make sure to enjoy the heck out of it, because the memories you will make will be some of the greatest of your life!