At the beginning of the season you were issued three practice shirts; a brown one, a green one and a white one (but the colors don’t matter – the shirt unimportant. It’s a metaphor.) You were asked as a team to wear the same colored shirt to each practice. Would the shirt make you a winner? Certainly not. Wearing the same colored shirt simply demonstrated your resolve over a period of time – how much stick-to-it-ive-ness you had. The smallest testament to the strength and sustainability of your discipline and will; for, if you don’t have the discipline to wear the right shirt, do you really have the discipline required to win a national championship? Discipline + Focus = Peace to an emotional mind.
Thinking the shirt an undesirable act of conformity you elect to not wear the right shirt on a given day. Are you now an individual? You miss the point. The act of individualism IS IN WEARING THE SHIRT. The individualism of being a champion. LOOK.
Look around you. Do you see anyone else wearing the same colored shirt to practice? No. Not everyone wants to be the winner, nor can they envision being the national champion. The thought eludes them. Someone else will win. But not me. So everyone else wears whatever shirt they choose to practice. Maybe it was the only clean shirt in the closet. Maybe it was the first shirt one could find. No planning ahead. There are always reasons for wearing “a different shirt.” So welcome to the ranks of those who have sight but no vision. Not to worry. First we form habits, then habits form us. Everything develops daily – not in a day on this journey. Well done. The trick is getting everyone on the same page at the same time.
Ability is one thing. There. You have it. Just one thing. But I’ve always been one to see things as an equation. An equation can’t just be (a). It has to be (a) + (b) = (something). In this case (a) equals “ability” and (b) equals “an all-consuming passion.” The equation (ability) + (all-consuming passion) = a championship. And I can guarantee that the team with the greatest quantity of (ability) + (all-consuming passion) will win the 2013 USAV Girl’s Junior National Championship. This is where the rubber meets the road. No fake it till you make it. No confusing motion with progress. Benjamin Disraeli said, “The secret of success is to be ready for your time when it comes.” Ask yourself, “If not now, when? If not you, who?” The teams that didn’t get here may have had a lesser degree of ability; a lesser all-consuming passion, or just spent too much time running as hard as they could to stay in the same place doing today what they did yesterday because they think they can get away doing the same thing tomorrow. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Lots of people do that – which is why average has gotten so bad in America most people expect to go to the head of the class just by showing up. They squeeze their fist as hard as they can, yet even so – ask them to squeeze even harder … and they can. The 2013 USAV Girl’s Junior National Championships isn’t about those teams. It is about the teams who see the equations and wear the shirts and squeeze their fist harder. There are many ways a team can wear a shirt. This was just one way. The most literal.
Champions do not become champions on the court. they are merely recognized there. Becoming a champion began on the day you agreed to don the shirt. If you want to see where someone develops into a champion look at their daily routine. You can map out a game plan but when the action starts, you’re down to your reflexes. That’s where your road work shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, you are going to be found out under the bright lights tomorrow. Wearing the shirt is different from just seeing and reading a slogan printed on a club wall or uniform. Wearing the shirt must be lived. If I say something to you you remember it for 5 minutes. If you watch something maybe 20. But if I make you physically do something – that cements neural pathways and 80% of the people will retain 98% of the neural handshake for the rest of their lives. Wear the shirt.
Look at the magnitude of the effort required to finish first in the nation – the enormity – in any age group. There is a 14s team that has just as much right to be the national champion as any 17s about-to-be-recruited or 18s team. You can’t sit on the couch for a couple of years watching Kobe Bryant play then one day jump off the couch and say, “Today I’m going to play in the NBA!” Years of preparation from youth went into the making of success. There are 41 USAV regions – and 14’s teams by the thousands. Only 16 regions sent teams to this year’s USAV Junior Girl’s 14-Open National Championships. Out of those regions came the top 32 teams. College admissions officers talk about “course rigor” when determining an applicant’s likelihood of success at a top institution. As the top 32 teams conducted their season did they consider “the course rigor?” Or did it dawn on players by surprise as they learned, “Hey! Those guys across the net really want to beat us.” This is a top institution. This is the 2013 USAV National Championships – Girl’s. SCVA (Southern California Volleyball Association) has the “rigor” to send 6 teams. The most. Six teams that swam all the way to the top out of 370 contestants. Each of the six have a character. “Solid” top dogs WAVE and Coast face often “mercurial” teams Tstreet and Mizuno. “Maturing” fighters Laguna Beach joined a SURGING San Gabriel Elite who overcame early season injuries to finished the SCVA season handing out convincing punishing defeats to all comers.
The North Texas Region sent 4 teams; Lone Star/South Texas sent 3 as did Florida. The 16 Regions sending teams in no order or preference are Gateway Region (1 team), Northern California (2 teams), Southern Region (2 teams), North Country Region (2 teams) SCVA (6 teams), Lone Star (3 teams), Florida (3 teams), Iowa (1 team), North Texas (4 teams), Heart of America Region (1 team), Rocky Mountain (1 team), Aloha Region (1 team), Ohio Valley (2 teams), Puerto Rico (1 team), Pioneer Region (1 team), Hoosier Region (1 team).
SCVA has a solid and regimental Qualifier and Mandatory tournament system unduplicated across the US. College coaches admire its metrics. All teams play exactly the same tournaments to establish their rankings – it’s an accurate measurement of strength. Other regions have no such system. Their teams generate their own tournament schedules and travel to up to 3 or more regional qualifiers They are the ROAD WARRIORS. They have learned how to survive. Those attending this year’s national championships for the most part finished first, second or third in each of the three Junior National Qualifier’s they attended. That’s impressive! So the 2013 USAV Girl’s Junior National Championships will pit “The Road Warriors” against SCVA. I like Mel Gibson.
So who can win this thing? I hope it’s my team but parity reigns in SCVA. The top 3 teams have all beaten each other with similar SCVA mandatory records of finishing first, second, third and fifth. A surging #8 San Gabriel Elite made their statement beating all comers in SCVA’s season-end Regionals.
Commitment. That’s why I love to watch them play. They wore the practice shirt. That’s how I know they’re committed. I love to watch “commitment” play. The shirt is the skin in the game. Now that shirt is out there, playing on the court. But you can’t see it. The practice shirt is now worn on the inside. It exudes confidence. The payout for all the hard work, and COMMITMENT. Commitment. A scared younger girl practicing and playing up with older teams, older practices, additional training, mandatory workouts; strength, speed, agility, stamina; indoor and beach, commitment; high performance; tryouts, extended travel, aches and pains, chiropractic adjustment, orthopedic specialists, rest; X-rays, MRIs, CAT Scans, family-lifestyle changing diet and nutrition upheavals; family-altering commitment; sacrifice, giving up to go up; this is not about convenience for the family, it’s about the commitment to the player; parents are not parents, we’re partners. Is 14 too young for all of this? Is 12? Think of all the US gymnasts who enter the sport as young as three and four and capture US Olympic gold medals by the age of 14. They’ve peaked and we’re just wrapping our minds around, “commitment.” Way behind the curve. Privates, camps, sleep-aways, common sense, judgement, ability, passion, volleyball IQ and OMG! high school practice starts next week. Like Prego Spaghetti Sauce used to say in it’s advertising, “Yeah. It’s in there.” That’s why I love to watch them play. These are not paper princesses. The winners (and there will be only one) are warrior princesses. These are the gladiators. We love to watch them play. They have character. And if you go through life and don’t become a character you haven’t lived life.
An unaimed arrow always hits its target. When I give out sales awards the first place guy gets $1,000. The third place guy gets $1,000. Do you know what the second place guy gets? A buck! Why? Well, the first place guy was going to finish first anyway because he or she is just that good. The third place guy gets the same award because they were really 8th or 9th in the competition and worked their behind off to get that close. I appreciate the effort. But the second place guy coasted. He or she could have been first. They just didn’t want it bad enough and I don’t sanction that. No one remembers second place. “We try harder” may have championed being #2 in American culture and for AVIS but also arrested their ability to surpass #1 Hertz. I never aim for number two.
Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. And if you’re competing in the Open Division don’t bring a 2s mentality to a 1s tournament. Good luck to all the teams this year.