Throughout my club years with MVVC, we haven’t normally faced adversity early on in tournaments. It typically ends up being an easy first couple of pools and then some challenging matches in the playoffs. However, in a recent showcase, the SCVA Holiday Classic, we lost a match on the first day. The loss shocked us all. Many of us were frustrated and confused, not knowing how badly it affected our chances of making it to the finals. After the game, I found a few of my teammates complaining about others who didn’t perform well instead of focusing on their individual play. Noticing this external, critical mindset, I reminded them that this day isn’t over. We had two more matches to go and if we won both, we’d be eligible for playoffs. Overcoming the loss felt unattainable, but I pointed out that we still have a lot more talent we can each individually give to our team. By pulling them away from such a negative mentality, our play elevated and on Sunday it took us to a gold medal.
Looking back on that day, I really understood how much impact I could have on my teammates, on and off the court. I’ve often heard people characterize volleyball as a mental sport. Growing up, I involved myself with numerous activities, including baseball, wrestling, basketball, and track. I feel that this experience has given me an enormous amount of mental strength that has cultivated my resilient mindset when I play. A lot of my teammates haven’t been exposed to as much athletic pressure and challenges as I have. As a result, I’ve felt my role fall into building up those around me when they question their athletic abilities, or believe their own performance is out of their control. I feel that my background has taught me how to be a positive leader and how to keep others calm in tight situations. It’s clear to me that I still have a lot of progress to make in both my physical and mental capabilities. However, moments like these remind me that team sports are not only about giving it your all, but they’re also about helping your teammates attain those same standards.