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Toughness in Volleyball Is About CIA

By Sean Glaze, Junior Volleyball Association, 11/07/18, 12:00PM CST

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One of the many points I share in the program is to CLAP for mistakes instead of pouting. ... Pouting is selfish – but winning teammates will CLAP (Claim it, Learn from it, Affirm their ability and Play on!).

Every coach has drills to improve passing, serving and setting. Every coach spends time focused on plays and rotations.

But in my experience, over two decades of coaching and nearly eight years of working with teams as a team building speaker, that is only 10 percent of what leads to team success.

Yes, skills and system stuff are important – but the 90 percent that most coaches neglect is working on and emphasizing toughness and teamwork.

Toughness is not physical strength, although that can help. Real toughness is about responding positively to challenges and unexpected obstacles.

The problem you have with your players is the same I had with mine – you work on skills for hours and then skill gets beaten by toughness all day long.

What is toughness, though?

What is it that makes one player better in bad moments than other players are? I think that real toughness in basketball is about CIA.

CIA, of course, is a cheesy but memorable acronym... Toughness is about CONSISTENCY IN ADVERSITY.

My teams and players and audiences have heard for years that toughness is consistency in adversity.

Anybody can give great effort and be positive when it is 75 degrees and sunny. It is easy to play hard and be encouraging when things are going well ... when you are up by 10 points and just made your last three shots.

But what about when things are going against you?

Are your players giving the same effort, sharing the same body language, saying the same things when they just had a couple of calls go against them? Are they still playing hard when they just missed their last few shots or shanked a couple of passes?

That is what toughness is ... CONSISTENCY IN ADVERSITY.

Tough players and tough teams give the same effort regardless of circumstance.

They don't let circumstances affect their efforts – they work so their efforts affect their circumstances!

So how do you build toughness in your players?

What if, in the middle of adversity, your players really did give consistent effort and stay focused on what THEY can control instead of wasting effort on whining and complaining?

You only change behaviors with new awareness – and you change awareness with new experiences.

The more often you put your athletes in difficult circumstances, the more experience they get in dealing with difficulty. Make practices more challenging mentally.

When you scrimmage, make bad calls intentionally and then address their responses to improve their awareness of what they control in those moments.

When you open practice, is there a drill with specific requirements where your players have to reach a certain number of makes in a row to force them to overcome lethargy or lack of focus? Can you add levels of difficulty throughout the season?

Great coaches make drills and practice experiences more difficult than game situations – so they can elicit the emotions and frustrations that often accompany setbacks and difficulty.

What unfair, challenging, difficult experiences can you give your players where they are pushed mentally to have to play with discipline and determination.

Great coaches push their players into those uncomfortable situations to give them experience in dealing with it – and becoming more consistent with their efforts regardless of circumstances.

Another experience that is helpful is to improve their awareness of tools and techniques by bringing in a speaker or investing time in a toughness training program, such as the Team Toughness Talks video series and handouts I have shared with numerous teams and players.

One of the many points I share in the program is to CLAP for mistakes instead of pouting ... Pouting is selfish – but Winning Teammates will CLAP (Claim it, Learn from it, Affirm their ability, and Play on!).

How much better would your team be if your athletes learned to respond positively to mistakes, to give and receive feedback effectively, and to handle pressure with poise?

How many wins would it be worth to have athletes who were more resilient?

If you want a more successful team... if you want more wins... toughness in volleyball is about CONSISTENCY IN ADVERSITY.

And as a coach, you can create and provide experiences that will give your players the tools, techniques, and awareness of what they are doing and how it is affecting their team's performance so they can change their behaviors and become more consistent.

Stop focusing your efforts and practice time on skills and strategy alone.

Great teams are mentally tough.

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About the JVA

The JVA is an association of Junior Club Directors and Coaches who are dedicated to all facets of junior volleyball and have a desire to offer the best programming possible to their members. We are the leaders and forward thinkers in Junior Volleyball Programs and we are a voice for junior clubs. Our number one goal is to help club programs and events thrive.