The Success of our Players

Written by LMU Head Coach Tom Black

Watching players at the high school or club, collegiate, and international levels, it’s always interesting to see who succeeds at the next level, who stumbles, and who has a curvy path in their athletic journey. One thing that might shape our observation and analysis is how we view success.

If we view success as wins, losses, and box scores we will get an accurate view of the player’s ability in the present tense, but not in their future. If we could, then we could just look at the top-15 ranked recruits each year and plug them into the NCAA 1st Team All-American list. We could look at the 1st Team All-American list and plug them into next quad’s starting Olympic roster.

It never works this way, though, and inevitably some high performers from the lower level stumble at the next, and players we never thought of thrive four years later. Why?

If we view success as our ability to overcome challenges, we might get a more accurate view and predictor of a player’s future success. When we challenge our player’s to change, how quickly can do they do it? How hungry are they to do it? How hard do they work outside the bare minimum of requirements? How hard do they push back when the competition pushes on them? If they fail, how do they recover and what do they do the next time?

These types of behaviors are very accurate predictors of future performance, and the invisible accumulation of abilities through the resolve to fight harder and smarter the next time is exactly the reason so many players inevitably “come out of nowhere.”

Success in the present tense can be a great thing, but it doesn’t predict future success unless one can look deeper into the nature of the success and witness certain key behaviors at work.

And, no matter how good a player is at his or her current level, if she is motivated to pursue her volleyball career she will inevitably meet her competitive match. How she responds to that challenge, to the inevitable failures that will come from a hard fight and tough obstacles will provide a crystal ball much clearer than the current stat sheet.

Because we are flawed human beings, many of our players, and many of us as coaches, will often react poorly to the challenges this tough competitive arena throws at us. This is where our growth mindset and ability to develop it comes in. We can help our players through these challenges, just as we help ourselves.

Good luck to all of us the rest of the way.

Tom