Athletes - Let Go of Perfect

February 14, 2020

Athletes - Let Go of Perfect

Volleyball Power Hitting Mechanics Takes Time

Learning to hit a volleyball, with really good power hitting mechanics, is a complex and challenging movement that is learned over thousands of repetitions, typically over many years. As coaches we know that, but young athletes don’t!

Young athletes have been conditioned to think that they can develop perfect swing mechanics and then swing perfectly and pound the ball in just a few swings or few minutes. That’s just not the case.

How Long It Takes to Become a Pro

We all see commercials on TV that lead us to believe that our favorite professional athletes did a few squats in the weight room, conditioned with the ropes and then took a drink of a sports drink and boom, they were pro athletes. Ask any professional athlete how long it took them to develop their professional level sports skills and they will likely tell you "it took years", if not "decades".

It takes a lot of focused work and probably hundreds of thousands of repetitions to develop the ability to jump in the air, kick your feet, turn your hips, chest and whip your arm through with amazing force and arm speed to pound the ball past your opponent. Truth be told, the best pro athletes are continually working on their skills all the time to develop them and/or maintain them.

I remember watching Becci when she was a high school sophomore. She didn't hit like this then.

This is was what she looked like after her after college...this took years to develop.

Let Go of Being Perfect

Perfect is an athlete's enemy! Trying to be perfect creates all kinds of issues and actually slows or stunts an athlete’s development because they are focused on the wrong thing - being perfect.

 

The fastest way to improve...

                    is to let go of being perfect.

 

When the focus is on being perfect, numerous negative outcomes can arise, such as:

  1. Fear
  2. Paralysis by analysis

Fear

fear image

Fear creates tension in the muscles and tension in the muscles reduces hitting power, fluidity and athleticism.

Paralysis by Analysis

Athletes who are obsessed about being perfect will often over-analyze their mechanics as they look at video of themselves swinging and hitting balls. They can become frozen by their analysis and related fear which will for sure stunt their power & development.

Video Analysis - the use of slow motion video analysis is a great tool for athletes to see how they are physically moving and swing to hit a ball with power. For some athletes, however, video analysis reduces and slows their learning & development because they realize that their mechanics are not perfect. The result varies between athletes but for many athletes, they may get frustrated, become fearful, or worse become almost frozen because they are over analyzing the video and their mechanics.

video analysis

We love using video to help athletes learn faster and better but we also want them to know that the video is just data. Data that shows how they moved and swung for one swing in time. Ideally we would like them to look and observe what they did and then choose one thing to focus on and focus on improving that one factor, while understanding it may take thousands of repetitions to really improve it and to just get better each day, not worry about being perfect.  

Growth Mindset

To speed development of power hitting skills, athletes need to just focus on what is called a “Growth Mindset”. Their mental focus (their mindset) should be on their growth, on progress and improvement, NOT on being perfect.

 

Just Get Better, Today, This Week, This Month, This Year...

 

We like athletes to focus their minds and efforts on just getting better, every repetition, everyday...When getting better is their focus, it takes the pressure off of being perfect and puts their focus on improving each day.

Power Hitting Confidence

Every coach is looking to have confident athletes who play for their team. Confidence in power hitting comes from competence in power hitting. Power hitting competence comes from repetition [working on getting better to improve your power hitting mechanics over time (days, weeks, months and yes, years)].

 

Confidence = Competence = Focused Reps

 

So as athletes spend the necessary time, focus and energy on improving their mechanics each day, their power hitting skills (mechanics) will improve over time. In time, they will see their skills developing and they will start to see and know that their skills (their competency) is improving. In more time (and reps) competency will increase their power hitting confidence.

What Coaches Are Looking for?

College coaches are not looking for highlight reels of an athlete hitting ball after ball at their opponents. They're also looking to see what happens when the athlete hits the ball into the net, or out of bounds.

Athletes Fail, A Lot

Coaches know that athletes will fail often (as a great hitting percentage in volleyball is to hit 3 out of 10 balls well; so 70% of the time they fail). What many coaches are looking at is how the athlete acts or behaves after they fail.

 

Hitting 3 out of 10 Balls is Great!

 

At every next level of volleyball or sports, the game gets faster, better and good coaches know that every athlete will struggle as they are exposed to higher levels of play. The coaches want to see how each athlete handles the failure and if they have coping skills to handle the failure specifically.

Specially, hitting the ball into the net, out of bounds is not a major issue but how the athlete acts of behaves after they do it is critical to whether the coach wants them on their team. If the athlete stays tall, stays present, confident and comes right back with confidence, that’s the athlete every coach wants on their team. On the contrary, if the athlete drops their head, slumps, slouches, cusses, kicks the ground or some other less than ideal behavior, the coach may see that the athlete may not have the coping skills to face failure and come right back with confidence.

Frustration

Athletes will become frustrated (if they care about getting better) but they need to understand that frustration is also a part of the athletic skill development process. Letting go of being perfect will allow athletes to be more focused on just getting better everyday, every week and will allow them to work through frustration faster and develop faster to a higher skill level.

 

Frustration is Normal for Developing Athletes

 

Athletes Need to Do & Act Like This

So if you want to impress coaches, be recruited by better teams and develop faster and to a higher level than your competitors, do these things:

  1. Let go of being perfect
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail.
  3. Understand fear is natural and don’t let it paralyze you
  4. Learn how to act when you fail:
    1. Tell yourself positive things
    2. Visualize yourself doing it correctly
    3. Stay focused (present in the moment)
    4. Believe that you will do it better each time
    5. Stay tall, chest up & open, make eye contact and show that you’re present (avoid looking down, slumping your body posture, closing your chest, losing yourself in your inner negative thoughts)
    6. Do the work to build your competence and confidence
    7. Know that you will get better every rep, everyday, week…




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