How to prevent or reduce the severity of a volleyball slump

In sightA note to my daughter:

Slumps are as common in business as they are in volleyball or any other activity where performance is measured. The executive who once thought him or herself invincible can no longer close deals. The volleyball player who is an integral part of a team wonders why they no longer serve, receive, dig, pass, block or hit as well. If you have high expectations for yourself the perceived gap between what you are capable of and what you are now doing is mental quicksand. And the harder you try to get out the deeper you’ll sink. You’re over analyzing. STOP!

A top salesman came to me one day complaining he could no longer easily close deals. He was seeing just as many prospects. But he was talking a lot more, his sales calls took longer and he was, in effect, talking himself out of deals. He knew too much. He wanted to share too much with potential customers. He was REACHING FOR SALES. Trying to turn “nos” into “yeses.” He was perceived as desperate – much as players become when they think they’re not doing as well as they think they should. My answer to my salesman was simple. HAVE FUN! He was “selling.” And no one wants to be “sold.”

To pull out of a slump HAVE FUN! Remember KISS: KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID. My salesman was my top performer and he wasn’t having any fun. He wasn’t keeping things simple. The once care free easy-to-like guy with a simple pitch had become an EXPERT. He knew too much. He expected too much and in effect he was undermining his own efforts.

Peaks are fun but no one rides a peak forever. A slump is inevitable and the valleys can seem interminably low. It’s an IMPULSE CURVE. The trick is to learn how to manage the emotional roller coaster. The length of time spent in a slump will decrease and the length of time spent on a high will increase the stronger you make this mental muscle. But it won’t happen in a day. It happens daily.

Less talented teams often win championships simply because they train their mental muscle. In practice they look at negatives as “blessings in disguise” so that in a game they can recognize the behaviors that net negative outcomes. Get six players on the court who control their minds in unison and the team hums like a 12 cylinder Jaguar on its way to victory. That’s called FOCUS.

If you are in a slump it’s because you are NO LONGER HAVING FUN. It’s not because there’s some aspect of the game you’re not good at. Like my salesman, YOU’RE TRYING TOO HARD. You’re “reaching for a sale” and in return you’re beating yourself up. You’re not giving yourself a chance. You’re setting yourself up for failure rather than success. Stop. It’s the wrong reward equation. You put in the work. You put in the effort. You’re fully invested and everyone knows it. SO HAVE FUN! Find a happy place and think about that instead. Practice is over. That last game is over. What’s done is done and nothing can change it. That’s what they mean when they say, “SHAKE IT OFF.”

Dale Carnegie said, “Learn to live in a day-tight compartment.” Put your worries in that box and put it away. And the next time you face the same situation you can draw on that mental bank of experience and say, “Ah ha! I’ve seen this before and now I know how to deal with it.” “I’ve been down this road before!” Remember the 4th grade National Basketball Championships. We were down by 12 against Bakersfield with 1:02 to play. We summoned the effort to tie the game with :12 seconds left. Remember seeing Abby and Devyn and Kimia and Hannah dancing across the floor. That’s where you need to be. Remember that Bakersfield moment. That’s the mental bank into which you’ve made a deposit and from which you now need to make a withdrawal. And it’s available the rest of your life.

Everyone around you is proud of you, we love you, we think you’re special and you make us happy. And isn’t that why we play the game? As parents we have released you to the game to experience your successes and deal with your failures on your own. We can’t do this for you. You have to do it yourself. And all you have to do is practice having FUN. It may be hard. But that’s the answer. I hope this helps.

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