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  • Writer's pictureCameron Branch & Timothy McIntosh

8 Best Volleyball Lessons for Achieving Success

Updated: Feb 24

Over the course of our volleyball careers, we've received several questions pertaining to our journeys, how to improve performance, and how to effectively reach goals. In this article, Timothy McIntosh and I will share 8 lessons (tips), that you can focus on if you want to improve, and make that next step in your career. Whether you are striving to make a club team, college/ university program, or thinking about signing your first professional volleyball contract, this article, and the 8 lessons we share can help you achieve that.
Timothy McIntosh receives a ball during NORECA Continental Championships.
Timothy McIntosh receives a ball during NORECA Continental Championships.
Note – these are not in any particular order.

#1) Long-term athlete development

Volleyball Canada has done a tremendous job at outlining steps for athletic success based on age, and developmental stages for volleyball athletes. If you'd like to learn more about long-term athlete development and what you should be focusing for your age, check out this article here.

In summary, on-court volleyball training hours matter. Physical preparation and getting stronger, matters. Mental preparation and bulletproofing your mindset matters. Lifestyle behaviours including, but not limited to sleep, hydration, and nutrition matters to support your day-to-day training and recovery.

Train as much as possible while listening to your body, both mentally and physically. You have one body. Take care of your body, and it will take care of you.

Sporting careers are a marathon, not a sprint.

#2) Be a student of the game

You must study your sport like it is a degree. Learn every aspect of the game and refine every skill. Watch film on yourself, and on others. Focus on movements, positioning, and technique. Obtain feedback from coaches and teammates. Leave your ego at the door. Don't take feedback personally. We play a team sport.

Cameron Branch attacking from the back court against Sokol, Vienna. Photo Credits: Lenny Oerley
Attacking from the back court against Sokol, Vienna. Photo Credits: Lenny Oerley
#3) Seek knowledge

You are responsible for your career and your body. Not your parents or coach. It's a hard truth. At the end of the day, YOU are the best coach. So how do you become your best coach to support your biggest assets (your body, and your career)? We live in a world full of information. Seek knowledge on topics including nutrition, sleep, hydration, physical preparation (i.e., weight training), and technical/tactical aspects of the game. You can read books, listen to podcasts, watch youtube tutorials, and ask players/coaches questions. I enjoy sharing content on these aforementioned topics via instagram. You can follow along my journey, and the athletes I work with here.

#4) Develop a trusted sport network

While we are on the topic of seeking knowledge, not everything you read, hear, or watch is going to be beneficial for you. Social media is a great resource for acquiring new information, but it can be challenging to process what is best for you and your unique needs. The sport, biological age, gender, level of sport, and injury history all influence which strategies are necessary and effective for you as an individual. It's important that your sources of information are reliable. In this regard, while individualized programs and resources provided by experts in their respective fields may be expensive, view this as an investment in your health, your body, and your career.

Who do you want in your trusted sport network? Here's a brief summary of professionals and their unique, cohesive roles to support your journey!

Head Coach and Coaching Staff
Understands the game. Manages talent, and helps develop athletes.

A healthcare professional who understands medical priorities, return to play protocols, and communicates pre-existing or developing medical conditions.

A healthcare professional who understands the neuromusculoskeletal system. Helps to keep bones and joints in alignment, along with nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist
A healthcare professional that supports sport specific rehabilitation programs to manage injuries.

Physical Preparation Coach
A professional who understands team and individual training goals. In addition, understands how to periodize training programs for peak athletic performance throughout the season and off-season.

Mental Preparation Coach
A partner in understanding individual and team-based goals. Helps to formulate mental strategies to support peak mental performance throughout the season.

A partner in understanding that food is fundamental to athletic development, health, performance, and recovery. Helps educate athletes on eating strategies to support intensive training and competition over the duration of the season.

A partner in gaining connections in the professional world of volleyball. They negotiate contracts, and they present you to teams around the world.
#5) Stress management

Being an athlete can be very stressful, even more so if you are a student athlete. Therefore, learn to work with your body, not against it. It's imperative to learn how to manage your unique stressors as they relate to training, competition, and life stress.

Here are some strategies to help with stress:

1.) Make lists. Get organized. Prioritize your week - early in the week, take time to prioritize the things that matter. Consider what you need to do to be a successful athlete (and student for some of you). What needs to be done this week? What is essential? What goals do I want to achieve this week? Consider writing them down on paper or use a calendar app.

2.) Focus on things within your control - this can include your sleep routines, eating and hydration habits, how you prepare yourself for training/competition.

3.) Let go of the past - the past is out of your control. Learn from the past, accept it as a lesson learned. You're on a journey to improve as an athlete (and human). Express gratitude. There are many things to be grateful for in life. You are alive today.

#6) Setbacks happen

Whether an injury, a poor performance, or a missed opportunity, this is all part of the journey. It is how you RESPOND to setbacks. Learning how to deal with setbacks is key to your success. Instead of ruminating on setbacks approach them like such:

An injury is a chance to come back stronger, with more knowledge about your body and how to manage it.

A poor performance is an opportunity for growth. Use a poor performance to drive your curiosity for creating actionable goals for improvement.

A missed opportunity. Well it's in the past. Stop ruminating . Accept it as a lesson. It's time to move forward and focus on next opportunity.

#7) Goal setting and realistic feedback

A critical component to improvement is setting intentional goals before practice. Your coach may have identified areas that you need to work on. Use this valuable information to develop your own pre-practice goals. Be sure to write them down!

It can be as simple as this:

What are three things I want to focus on in practice today?

Equally, post-practice is a great opportunity to reflect and get realistic feedback from yourself and coach(s). Visualize what you did to determine areas for improvement. The feedback should be related to the pre-practice goals you set for yourself.

What went well? What was the biggest win of practice?
What did not go so well? What was the greatest challenge of practice?
What is one thing I can learn from today, and improve upon next practice?

#8) Your full potential is unknown

Keep going. If you show up consistently, focused and ready to work/learn, results will come naturally. Focus on small wins rather than big breakthroughs.

Bottom Line:

If you want it, you will achieve it!

Final Action Step!

Thank you for reading! If you thought this article was helpful, please click the share icon and share the article to your profiles so other athletes and coaches can benefit.

Follow along here on Instagram where I provide weekly tips on foundational resources including training, recovery, nutrition, and mindset!

Also, be sure to check out other articles within the  The Athlete Toolbox.

Cameron Branch
Founder | Lead Coach | Branch Sports Performance

Timothy McIntosh
Team USA Libero | Professional Volleyball Player | Coach
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1 Comment

Apr 08

Thanks for the tips!

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