Looks aren’t everything, as you’ve no doubt heard. But the way you look during a volleyball match can certainly be important.

It’s no secret that our facial expressions and body language often reflect how things are going for us on the court. If your team is winning and you’re killing a lot of balls or passing well or digging everything in sight, chances are you’ll be smiling and walking tall, shoulders back, head high.

On the flipside, if your team is getting pounded and you’ve made a few mistakes, you may look the part. Maybe you’ll be frowning, shaking your head, slumping, shuffling slowly across the court. Or all of the above.

A message that we preach to our athletes in the USA gym and one that I followed as an indoor and beach player is this: No matter how bad things get in competition, you should always look as if everything is just fine. One reason for that is it’s a good way to frustrate your opponents. They might be winning – maybe even winning by a lot – but if they look through the net and see that you don’t look any different than you did when the match started, it’s likely to get them thinking that they can’t crack you. When an opponent witnesses your lack of discouragement, it can’t help but be a little discouraging to them. We’re winning – why are they so happy?

There’s another good reason to exude confidence. Studies that I’ve seen who that you can positively affect your thoughts by consciously carrying yourself in a positive way. If you smile, walk upright and look like a winner, your thoughts are likely to be more positive, too.

Looking good sends an important message to your teammates, too. I was ready an article awhile back about Mike Krzyzewski, who coaches men’s basketball at Duke and is also head coach of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball team. He loves to see his players showing what he calls a “strong face,” which means transmitting maximum intensity and focus and optimism. The article I read talked about Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, one of the top players in the NBA. As Krzyzewski noted, Durant frequently oozes strong face when he’s playing.

One time, Krzyzewski asked one of Durant’s teammates this question: “When you see Kevin with that kind of face, what do you think?” The answer: “I know we’re going to win.”

That’s a great lesson. You can, with your thoughts and your body language, absolutely infect your teammates, both positively and negatively. That can have a huge impact on the outcome of a game or match.

As you know, you and your teammates aren’t always going to be at your best. Sometimes it’s just an off day and your best may only be, say, 60-percent of what you would be on a great day. So you have to think about how you can get the abosulte best out of your 60-percent, and one way you do that is by staying positive – not shrinking or letting yourself get consumed by negative thoughts or succumbing to bad body language.

Walking, talking and looking like a champion is a key step toward becoming one.