Stretching before practice or a match is a must.

Originally published in the Winter 2016-17 edition of VolleyballUSA

It’s impossible to go through life without making mistakes, and that’s okay! Mistakes are often a good thing, assuming you learn from them. Here are seven that I’ve made in my volleyball career that I don’t plan on repeating.

Not stretching enough before playing

Every time I tried to play without properly stretching, I ended up with an injury of some sort. Stretching and warming up before playing is even more important when you’re sore from previous workouts. Just a few extra minutes can prevent you from months of injury rehab.

"Really, I’m fine coach! It doesn’t hurt!”

I’m not going to say that you should never play through some soreness, because that’s part of being an athlete. But there are no benefits to playing through serious injuries, and you need to clear it with a certified trainer or medical professional before you play with any kind of injury.

Playing while injured elevates the risk of injuring yourself even worse, and you won’t be playing at your full potential. In my experiences, playing through injuries has only slowed down the healing process and kept me off the court longer.

Pigging out before practice

Diet affects performance on the court more than most people realize. Even though it seems easier and quicker to go grab some fast food or an unhealthy snack, you’ll thank yourself later for choosing something healthier. Trust me, you will regret that cheeseburger when you’re doing your third set of sprints.

Staying up too late the night before a tournament

Whether you’re hanging out with friends or binge-watching Netflix, I know how easy it is to lose track of time. You thought you’d just stay out for a little longer with your friends or watch just one more episode of your show. But pretty soon you’ve wasted a few hours you could have spent sleeping. I’m never able to perform at my best when I’m sleep deprived.

Dwelling too long on the last play

Volleyball is a fast-paced game, and you have to be able to move on from mistakes quickly. It’s impossible to have a career as an athlete without making mistakes. They’re part of the game. But thinking too much about the last play has a snowball effect, with one mistake turning into another.

The only thing that should matter is the current play and what you’re going to do at that very moment to earn the point. You can’t change the past, and you definitely can’t worry about the future.

Ignoring coach instructions

One of the most important things I’ve learned through playing is that when coach gives you a specific instruction in a game, you do it. Coaches have a lot more experience and knowledge about the game than their players do. If you coach tells you to block line, you block line. If they tell you to commit on the middle, that’s exactly what you do. More times than not, you’ll be successful by following their instructions.

Expecting that it’s enough to just show up for practice

There’s a lot more that goes into success than just going to practice a few times a week. Weight training, healthy diet, proper sleep, stretching and studying the game are all factors, among other things. As I began doing more outside of practice, I saw huge improvements in my play.

Kendall Kipp was a 16-year-old junior player when she wrote this article. She played middle on the 2016 and 2017 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team.