"Do you remember why you play or has it been too long? Do you play because you've worked so hard to get where you are or is it because you love to be part of a team? Is it because you love the anxiety before the game? Is it because you don't want to let anyone down or because you don't want to let yourself down?"
As players and coaches get deeper into their careers, the workloads become harder, the practices get tougher, the competition becomes more intense while the seasons drag on longer and longer. You slowly start to dread the early morning conditioning workouts, wondering, why am I awake when the sun isn't even up yet? Weekend matches and tournaments clog up your already busy schedule. Before you know it, volleyball becomes a mundane routine stuck on repeat.
All the experiences, struggles, triumphs and moments that brought you to this spot in your volleyball career blur making you wonder…why am I doing this anymore?
Take a moment to simply remember. Find a cherished memory. Dig deep, past the sprints you ran because your team lost…past your serving error…past the teams that cut you on the last day of tryouts…past the teammate who plays over you. Don't stop searching until you find one. There has to be a reason why you are still around this sport.
It could be anything. It could be your first high school volleyball match. Or it could be your first college start. Or your first championship win as a new coach.
For me, it was one of my first volleyball memories. I was a little, scrawny grade-schooler who had to wear her gym shoes to practice because volleyball shoes did not come in my size. My spandex always gapped and my kneepads were oversized. I was not very strong and struggled with some skills, like serving overhand.
One growth spurt and a couple months later, my mom took me to the store to buy volleyball shoes. It took us longer to get there than I thought, but maybe it was because I was about to burst with excitement, wiggling under my seat belt the entire way. As soon as my mom put it in park, I was out the door and ready to go. We walked into the store, and I stopped in my tracks. It was AWESOME! It was covered in wall-to-wall volleyball stuff, including my precious shoes.
The man behind the counter was very nice as he helped us find just the right fit (with enough room for me to keep growing, of course!). He told us about his store and how long they had been around (since 1995!) and why his family started it (his own daughter could never find volleyball stuff in the area!). I'm sure I listened politely, but probably spent more time happily looking at all the stuff.
The next practice, I wore my brand new shoes. I finally felt like a real volleyball player! It was time to practice serving, not my favorite drill. I walked up to the serving line, holding my ball, just like I had done hundreds of times before.
"Elbow high. Swing straight. Good contact," my coach's voice echoed in my head.
Slow deep breath. Steady toss. Step. Swing. SUCCESS!
I couldn't believe it. My very first overhand serve (barely) floated over the net, without hitting the tape. (Note: this was a time before the Volley-Lite and Let Serve so this was a pretty big deal). So this was big news! I ran over to my coach, who asked me how I did it.
I repeated the steps from memory, just as she taught, because that is what she wanted to hear. But I knew, in fact I was convinced, it had to have been my volleyball shoes.
That small taste of success was enough to have me hooked on this great sport. That is my memory that keeps me in check. Now, almost 16 years later, I am working at All Volleyball, Inc. – that volleyball store where I found my first pair of volleyball shoes and my sense of success, which sparked a memory that continues to fuel my passion for all things volleyball. If I don't do this for me, the one sitting at my desk surrounded by volleyball, then you better believe I do it for the scrawny, little grade-schooler who couldn't serve overhand!!
So go ahead. Find your moment! Memorize it and hold it close. Use it as a tool to energize your love for the game because going back to Where the Game Begins will help you immensely over your long, happy volleyball life.
"Somewhere behind the athlete you've become, the hours of practice, the coaches who pushed you, the teammates who believed in you, and the fans who cheered for you is the little girl who first stepped onto the court. The little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back, PLAY FOR HER." -Author Unknown