Life Lessons Learned On the Court

Posted by on Mar 26, 2015 in Marital Counseling, Parenting, Self-concept, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I love to watch my daughters play volleyball. Partially, the pride of a parent watching her children develop skills and have those skills tested in a game but also because I see the value of what they are learning about life and relationships that can be applied throughout other aspects of their life.  Although I am relating to volleyball to describe these qualities, the concepts are transferable to most any team sport.

1) You don’t control the world. You can only do your part.  Winning or losing is affected not only by your personal performance but also the performance of your teammates and the other team’s performance.  Focus on your job.  You are responsible for your actions.  You can influence others but they will sometimes let you down, they will sometimes work with you, they will sometimes thwart your best efforts.

Learn your job…

Learn to let go of that which is not your job…

Learn where you can have a positive influence, and…

Learn that the “enemy” is a girl like you that is working really hard to keep you from thwarting her goal.

2) Teach rather than find faults. Find coaches, teachers, mentors or parental figures that teach you what to do rather than focus on what you did wrong.  I hear coaches saying things like: “hit the ball in-bounds”, “get your serve over the net”, or my favorite “try harder”.  Unless this is their first game, the athletes understand those objectives.  If they are not successful, it’s because they have not developed the skill consistently.  I love to watch my daughter’s coach.  She is passionate about winning but she reminds them of the technique that they need to employ to reach that goal.  She knows these girls want to win and are trying hard.  When they make a mistake it is because they have faltered in the execution of a skill, so she reminds them with statements like: “shuffle your feet”, “snap your wrist”, “bend your knees and hold the position”, etc…  She mimics the action and has them mimic it back to her, thus building muscle memory.  She is teaching and demonstrating rather than criticizing. I have not yet seen positive change happen when someone is criticized, on the court or off – especially in relationships.  When you are struggling…

Find mentors who will…

Teach and demonstrate

Rather than point out flaws.

3) Encouragement motivates – criticism discourages.  I touched on this in #2 above but due to its importance I believe it needs separate acknowledgment.  Encouragement means coming along side of someone acknowledging their disappointment but also supporting them in moving toward their goal.  Criticism only pushes a person further down in discouragement.  The natural response to criticism will be to give up or fight against the criticizer – neither is productive for teamwork.  Volleyball is largely a mental game.  When a team gets frustrated they will often begin to spiral down and make “rookie” mistakes.  To combat this, the girls “come together” to help a teammate who has faltered “shake off” the last play. In addition, my daughter’s team recently added a coach who is funny and the girls love to tease him.  Along with his skill knowledge, this coach adds a lightheartedness that does not distract from the job to be done on the court but rather allows the girls to move past their mistakes and prepare for the next play.  It takes…

Humility, Empathy, Patience and Humor

to be in an interdependent relationship with others.

4) Mistakes are part of life.  Volleyball is a game of mistakes.  Each team will make many mistakes in a game and each team will attempt to force the other team to make more.  Get use to the idea that you aren’t perfect and that you are never meant to be perfect.  Know that there isn’t much that can’t be worked out.  Sometimes, something goes drastically wrong in a play and teammates will scramble to keep the ball in play.  It’s not pretty but sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.  Much of life doesn’t go as planned, sometimes you’ll have to scramble.  Don’t give up and don’t let past mistakes keep you from moving forward and trying new things.  As I watch games I see that some girls will try untested and newly-learned skills in a game and others play it safe.  Sometimes taking chances will result in a lost point; sometimes playing safe allows the other team an easy reception of the ball.  In life you need to take calculated risks even it means making a mistake.

The court is a great place to…

Practice being Imperfect.

5) Each person has a part to play and each person is gifted in some way but not necessarily the same way as others.  The skill set for passing is different than those necessary for setting, which is different from what is required to be a hitter.  Each player has a position with its own job function.  Each girl has strengths that make that position well suited for them.  Not one role is better than another.  Each person is necessary and valuable to accomplishing the team’s goal and each player is interdependent with her teammates.  Such is the dynamic of a family or a job environment.  Sometimes the hitters get a lot of “glory”.  But her hit was successful largely due to the support of the passer and the setter.

Value your contribution to others…

as well as their contribution to you.

6) Life requires balance and boundaries.  Boundaries help us set limits.  We live in an area that has a vast amount of sports related opportunities. As such, there are more and more ways to train, more and more venues for competing and more and more pressure to keep up.  Doing life well requires finding a balance of your time, energy and money.  Doing life well requires that you participate in family time, academic requirements, involvement in your church and other means of spiritual connection, connecting with friends, unstructured play, down time, time with nature, and as unpleasant as it may seem – chores.  In order for athletes to have a long career it is important that they value and contribute to the many areas of their life.  Otherwise burn-out is inevitable.  Sadly, many adults have a hard time balancing their various roles and obligations.

Helping kids say “no”…

to some really good opportunities

may help them learn to have balance in their adult life.

7) Your identity and value has nothing to do with performance.  You are valuable.  You are loved more than you can ever imagine and it has nothing to do with your ability to play volleyball.  Good or bad… win or lose… your value and how much you are loved does not change.  Being a volleyball player is only a part of who you are.  Volleyball is a means for you to play a sport with a team and learn what it takes to live a healthy life – physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually.  Each of those facets of who you are is tested out there on that court.  Your objective is to develop each of those areas – if there is an “L” on the scoreboard rather than a “W”, so be it.  Rankings help set goals for skill development – they do not determine your value.        

Comparisons are natural…

but know that they only judge one aspect of your life

You are so much more than a volleyball player.

As I said, I love to watch my daughters play volleyball.  I love seeing who they are when their character gets tested out there on the court.  I love to celebrate their successes and feel honored to walk with them in their disappointments.  As I was thinking about each of these listed values, I recognized some shortcomings in my own responses to what happens on the court of life.  Life is a process and I, like my daughters, am growing and learning each day.  I hope you are too.

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