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True volleyball leaders are born when their team is up against a tough opponent and their players are tired, drained and feel like giving up. Battling back to win in situations like this may seem impossible, but with a few tips you can make it happen. (See 3 Ways To Become A Strong Leader.) During a 30-second timeout, not just anyone can step up and find the right words that will turn a team around. But I can, and I do, and that's what I'm here to share with you.
Use the following tips to turn your players around and get their heads back in the game.
Know Your Players
Creating passion in your players doesn't take knowing each individual's positions or preferences. But it does take knowing what drives them and their strengths and weaknesses on and off the court. What does it take to get in their heads and make a difference in their aggressiveness on the court? Knowing each player's hot button will help you trigger greater effort across the board. (See also How to Become a Team Leader, Part 1: Win Your Class; How to Become a Team Leader, Part 2: Learning to Listen; and Become a True Athletic Leader.)
When your teammates are down, they will look over at you. If you look scared, worried or unhappy, your feelings with carry over to your players. So it's important to give them perspective like, "Yes we're down by nine points, but we're the better team here and we want it more!"
Recently, my girls played in their first major in-season tournament at a college in Rhode Island. The first match began at 8:45 a.m., and by 1:30 p.m. we were in first place in our pool and second overall out of 16 teams in the tournament. It wasn't an easy feat. Most of the matches were battles, and my girls won by only a few points. As we headed into the quarterfinals, I could see worry on a few faces, especially since the more they won, the better their opponents would be—and they were growing tired.
Before the quarterfinal match began, I took them all aside and asked for 100% focus and attention. I told them to relax and remember the basics, and then I went around the circle reminding players of their strengths, making simple comments like "Abby has a great weak side swing," "Lauren can pass even the hardest of hits," "Lily's hands can put up a set that makes even the worse pass look perfect," "Meg's outside hit is unstoppable," "Liv's middle slide still remains unblocked this season," and so on.
In tournament situation with several teams, each with its own fans, pre-game chant and ace cheer, it can get confusing and intimidating. It's important to isolate each player and give her something to feel confident about. Remind her why she made the team and why she is truly an amazing player. Tell her to focus on this as she goes into competition. Because no matter who you are up against, even the best team in the world makes mistakes; and if your team is smart, they will lead their opponents into making mistakes. Every side-out is a point gained in volleyball.
Focus the team on their opponent's weak link, and give each player the boost she needs. Most important, make your players laugh. Laughter puts subconscious positive energy into their minds, replacing thoughts of doubt or depression. So be funny, be upbeat and show them what it takes to get out there and get things done.