Three new year’s resolutions for Serve City players

by Jeff Smith

After taking three weeks off from volleyball over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Serve City’s teams hit the ground running in January. In fact, after just two practices the week of Jan. 7-11, some of our teams begin power league play as early as Jan. 12-13.

The period of January 7 to April 14 will be an intense and exciting three-month stretch for our athletes. Our teams will play 8-10 tournaments while practicing eight times a month.

What will be the key to our athletes getting the most out of this 12-week roller-coaster of activity? In a way, setting new year’s resolutions would be a huge advantage to them. Just as people establish new year’s resolutions for getting physically fit, accomplishing specific goals and making important lifestyle changes, new year’s resolutions for Serve City players would give them the focus, planning and goal-setting they need to make the most out of the heart of their club season.

Here are three new year’s resolutions that Serve City players could adopt as their own — or craft or tweak to meet their own unique situations — in 2019:

1. In 2019, I will learn or master this new skill: __________.

Personal growth doesn’t usually happen without setting goals and then creating plans to achieve those goals. Players will benefit from this approach. Decide what skill(s) you’d love to learn the rest of the season, tell your coach what you’d like to learn and work together to create a plan of action to reach this goal.

If you’re a 12U or 13U player who isn’t yet overhand serving in matches, developing a consistent standing float serve might be your goal. Or maybe you want to become a jump float server. Or you’re a 15U or 16U setter who wants to begin jump setting when receiving 3-point passes. Or you’re a 16U or 18U middle hitter who would like to master front slides and back slides. Or you’re a 13U or 14U outside hitter who wants to learn and use a 3-step jump hitting approach to start jump hitting. Or you’re a 16U or 18U back-row player who’d love to learn new digging techniques.

Dream big, stretch your vision, set some goals, create plans and get to work.

This same approach could be applied to learning a new position (right-side hitter, setter, libero, middle hitter …) or learning how to play in a new system (our 13U teams are learning how to run a 6-2 back-row setter system, and our 12U teams are learning how to run a 4-2 front-row setter system).

2. In 2019, I will make myself into a better practice player by ________________.

There is no such thing as a perfect volleyball player, or a perfect practice player. Every athlete can improve their practice habits. By improving their practice habits, players will then be developing better skills and growing in their understanding of their team’s tactics and strategies.

If you’re a Serve City player, examine your practice habits and decide what you will do to become a better practice player. If you don’t think you can objectively rate your practice habits, ask your coach for their feedback on your practice habits and how you can specifically grow.

Here are some ideas to get you into self-examination mode:

  • Arrive 10 minutes early for each practice.

  • Be your team’s hardest-working player at each practice.

  • Break the habit of skipping practice when I don’t feel like training.

  • Get more repetitions (touches on the ball) in your team’s drills.

  • Develop into a better listener when coaches are explaining drills and games.

  • Spend less time talking to teammates during drills and games.

  • Regularly give encouragement and affirmation to teammates throughout each practice.

  • Be more intentional about putting your coaches’ teaching into practice. (If Coach says to assume a low and athletic posture during a defensive passing drill, intentionally work on honing that posture as you perform the drill instead of taking the easy way out and assuming a standing posture.)

3. In 2019, I will develop a growth mindset in the area of ___________.

A growth mindset is the belief that, with dedication, hard work and teaching, players can learn just about anything in their sport. Some players struggle with a fixed mindset — the belief that they have specific talents that only allow them to do well in specific areas of the game. For example, a tall middle hitter may believe she can only help her team by blocking and hitting, but she can’t develop the ability to play in the back row, set a teammate when out of system or jump serve.

Is there an area of your game where you have a fixed mindset? Perhaps you’re a small 12U player who doesn’t think she can learn to overhand serve. Or a 13U player who struggles with jump hitting. Or a 14U player who’s never jump served in a match before. Or a 15U setter who hasn’t mastered back sets or quick setting. Or a 16U or 18U hitter who doesn’t know how to hit faster-tempo sets. Or an 18U or 16U blocker who rarely registers a block touch in practices or matches when swing blocking. Or a libero or DS who struggles to deliver out-of-system bump sets.

In 2019, commit yourself to practicing a growth mindset in whatever area you choose. Train with the belief that, over time and commitment, you’ll learn this new skill. And whenever you attempt and fail at this skill, avoid the temptation to self-consciously laugh it off and not try it again or feel embarrassed about it.

If you’re not making mistakes in practice, it means you’re not stretching yourself outside your comfort zone. It’s OK to “fail.” Just shrug it off and give it another go. And another. And another. You’ll get it eventually if you refuse to accept failure and commit to practicing relentlessly. I know you will.

Jeff Smith is Serve City’s girls volleyball director.