One day it clicked…
My step-daughter, Ceci, plays volleyball. She played for her middle school team last year and play on a club team in the winter as well. To say it nicely (because she has such a kind heart and I would never want to hurt her) her serves were not her strength. After watching many games of her team last year I can count the number of serves that she got over the net and were playable on one hand. It was a struggle and certainly caused a lot of frustration.
Fast forward a year. One day, really out of nowhere it clicked. Serves were rocketing over the net left and right. It was crazy. It was incredible. She was on fire. At one point, over a couple game span she had served 18 for 18 playable serves in a row! That was more than she had accomplished in her entire career. My wife and I were certainly proud of the strides she had made and so was she. She was beaming.
It was a night and day difference. She went from not serving to serving overnight. I had to know what was going on and what was the difference for her. After watching the serving take place over a couple of games I knew it was the new Ceci. It wasn’t a fluke or just one good game. It was here to stay. On the ride home from a game I asked her, “What are you thinking when you’re serving that is helping you perform so much better?” I expected her to say that it was an adjustment that she learned at practice, a tip her coach might have given her, some Youtube video she watched of a college player, or a talk she had with a teammate. But it wasn’t any of those. Her response, almost floored me. “I am pretending the ball is cancer.”
You see a member of her dad’s family was battling cancer and the initial prognosis was not a good one. This was the motivation Ceci needed. She cares so much about people and her family that she was able to channel the emotions of a tough situation into great performances. Over the years she has taught me that people are different and what motivates me, may not work for her.
Coach, you have many young men and women on the team you coach. Do you know what motivates them? Have you figured out what works to help them perform their best? For some it will be intrinsic, for others in might be extrinsic. Try to discern what helps each of your players. Is it rewards, recognition, fear, affiliation, power, attitude or competence that drives them to compete at their best. The sooner you figure it out the quicker you may see some dramatic improvement in some of your players.