How To Train Winning and Competitiveness
By Chris BeermanI am a competitive person; always have been, always will be. I am one of those guys that while driving will pull slightly ahead of the guy next to me at the stoplight just to be ahead of him! I'm an awful loser and don't ever believe you accept mediocrity in anything. That said, now I run a youth volleyball club with close to 300 members ranging in age from 6-18 years old and my quest is to create a competitive culture that makes Lexington one of the volleyball hotspots in the country. Our neighbor to the northwest, Louisville has established an incredible record of winning, high-level training and churning out confident, big-time volleyball players. The best thing about the players from Louisville or even our partner city, Muncie, IN is how competitive they are, how hard they play the game and how well-rounded they are as volleyball players. How do we replicate that or at least start the development of that mentality in Lexington? The answer seems easy: just train the heck out of your players and compete in practice every day. Although I believe that is the foundation of creating a playing culture as I've described, if it was that easy everyone would do it. Why do places like Muncie or Louisville dominate every year in national events? Are their athletes superior, are their coaches better, is it their feeder programs? Are there other factors? Each of these areas had local volleyball coaches/leaders start with small programs as start-ups and then slowly built the culture through great training and competitive kids. For the vast majority of successful club programs, the rise to the top was slow and steady and was built with a consistent philosophy, great coaching and big goals. As a few successful teams emerged within these clubs, legacies were born and then role models and new leaders emerged. Young children in these communities suddenly had heroes to aspire to. Players began training at the younger ages and the idea of attending college on a volleyball scholarship and playing the game they love, made for even more motivation. Most of the successful club dynasties have a 25-30 year head start on Lexington United, but my competitiveness and impatience for failure, makes me want our club to aspire to greatness now. I believe setting very high standards and expectation levels is the only way, however that must be tempered somewhat by realism. Unfortunately setting the bar too high or expecting too much too early only leads to a lack of confidence and questions about procedures. So expecting greatness and continuing to build confidence is the fine line we'll be walking with our club. The great thing about my own team's late practice time (8:00-10:00pm) is that I get to observe and interact with all the earlier practices. On a recent night, I thought many of the teams were not disciplined enough in how they were executing what the coaches were teaching. The players of one particular team were going through the motions of the drill, but the pace, focus and execution level was not making them better. I may be slightly different in that when I see a situation like that, my first instinct is to put the onus on the players rather than the coaches. Even the worst drill can be executed at a high level with pace and focus. I want the players to have pride in what they do and to take accountability in themselves and avoid the blame game and obviously the coach needs to have great energy and attention to detail as well. Was this isolated drill function making Lexington's volleyball culture better at that moment or were we remaining mediocre? This is the kind of thought process I want my coaches to be thinking about and the kind of detail that I will continue to hammer home. I want our players to develop pride in how they perform in practice, in themselves and their teammates. Nothing is more motivating and develops more confidence than playing fast, executing at a high level and personally taking pride in how your team "looks" while practicing. This translates directly to competition. The teams that win have pride in the details and extremely high personal and team performance expectations. We are on our way there and the most exciting part for me is that when I or our coaches raise the intensity level or expect more, the kids rise immediately to the challenge; they WANT to be great! It's hard right now for them to maintain the level on their own, so that's why our coaches need to be 24/7 people in practice; the expectations can never stop for a second. When this aspect of training and pride is player-driven rather than coach-driven, we will have the winning culture established here in Lexington. The journey there is the fun part and the competitor in me wants and expects the journey to be a quick one!