Karch Kiraly’s Volleyblog

National team players get nervous just like any other player. Reaching the highest level of the game doesn’t make you impervious to the jitters.

At the Montreux Volley Masters tournament in May and early June, five of the 14 players on our U.S. Women’s roster had never previously played for the senior National Team in a competition. Afterward, some of the players freely acknowledged that they had been nervous – very nervous – about jumping into the deep end of the pool for the first time.

It turned out just fine. They played, and played well, and they conquered their nerves en route to our silver-medal finish. 

Like we talked about in the last issue, part of dealing with stress on the volleyball court is maintaining a composed demeanor so you look the same on the outside even when your insides are churning.

Another big factor is calming yourself by focusing on the little things. This is true whether you’re 12 years old and about to play in your first club tournament or 26 and stepping onto the court for an Olympic gold-medal match.

What should you think about between points? Try concentrating on what you’ll need to do on the next play. Break it down into tiny things that you can control. For instance, you might focus on the hitting cues that you have gone over repeatedly in practice. “Elbow up, shoulder back quickly.” Things like that.

In Montreux, each of our position groups chose something they could do to help them fight through the bigger, more stressful moments. The passers, for instance, decided that they would look each other in the eye before each point and make some type of physical contact - a–high five, a tap on the should, a pat on the back.

It may seem fairly insignificant to go through a simple routine like this, but it’s good for the whole team. It fosters a sense of unity before each serve, and it’s a positive action that focuses your mind on something useful and away from the pressure of the match.