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I have coached volleyball for 24 years.  I have coached good teams, great teams, bad teams, really bad teams, and many in the middle.  This years team (girls) is different than most.  They are as enjoyable a bunch of young girls that I have ever coached.  Also, they are as inexperienced as any I have coached.  Yes, many have played for me for years but very few have played outside of the high school season.  Every other school is comprised of girls who play on club teams throughout the year.  Some of my girls don’t because they play other sports (which I value highly) some can’t afford it, and some just choose not to play.  I don’t use that as a crutch but a reality.  We are at a competitive disadvantage in regards to playing experience.

I let my girls know that.  Some of my girls were surprised at how another team had gotten so much better since last year.  I pointed out that 5 of that teams starters played all winter and summer.  I point it out, but I don’t hold it over their heads.  I point it out as a matter of fact.  I challenge them to recognize that fact and overcome that disadvantage.  I force them to see things for how they are rather than use those things as an excuse.

That began a theme.  Know who you are.  We give up points at a time.  We don’t give up 1, 2, or 3.  We give up 5 or more…even 10.  We make silly mistakes.  We miss serves.  We shank passes.  We let the ball drop.  We don’t communicate.  We don’t always do that, just much more than we should.  That’s who we are, mostly due to our lack of experience.  So, let’s own that and move on.  When it happens, realize it, accept it, vow to change it, fix it, and move on.

We played two rivals in the past two nights.  In both matches we played horribly in the first game and lost by ten.  On Monday we fought back and won the 2nd, 4th, and 5th games.  Last night after the first game I reminded them that us not starting great was sadly typical but could be overcome.  We went up 24-20 (games to 25) and folded.  We lost 26-24.  I told them that we now know that we can play with them.  We won game 3.  I then told them that we now know that we can beat them.  We won game 4.  I then said, “Look, you know who you are.  The fun part is you know get to show them who they are.”  Is that nice?  No. Was it motivating?  Well, we won game 5 and the match.

In both matches, specifically in game 5, we certainly lost points.  However, our opponents did things in those games that they didn’t in games 1-4.  Fear took over, nerves got to them, they were worried.  My girls were free to play and not worry about, “what if we fail?”

Who are you?  What are your fears about you?  Do you run from them?  Do you own them?  I’m not saying that you don’t strive to be better but rather realize that you are a work in progress.  Are things against you?  Are you at a disadvantage?  Do you have reasons to quit, doubt, or stop trying?  Fine, but don’t stop.  Start by knowing who you are rather than fearing what others (and more importantly you) think of you.  Don’t point out what advantages others have but rather work on who you are.

I was once told in a training to list my top 50 faults.  I ran to it.  I embraced it.  It was horrific.  However, once I did it I was able to own it and move on.  I was no longer encumbered by the fear of “Am I these things?” and able to work on those things.

Knowing who you are is a start.  You don’t stay there but it is the necessary beginning to being the best you…and beating your rivals.

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