I remember like it was yesterday. Sectional Finals over ten years ago. Next game goes to State. The air was tense. The crowd was loud. As the coach, I got goosebumps during warm-ups because it was such an amazing atmosphere. It was the middle of the first game of the match against our crosstown rivals. Like two heavyweights we were trading incredible hits with amazing defense. Huge blocks and smooth setting. We had a senior laden lineup on the floor–most of which were club players. My team had been in this spotlight before and knew what it took to get the job done. As we traded blow for blow with the other team, we started to lose some ground near the end of the game. In the blink of an eye we were down by four. I called a timeout. I looked at the eyes of all of my players hoping that they would look back at me with steely determination as if they were going to say to me, “Coach, we got this.” Instead, I saw tired. I saw “I’m done.”
We ended up losing that game and match against a very good team. Our chance at glory at the Boys State Volleyball Championship would not happen. I’m not entirely sure why my players were “done”, but after taking time in the offseason to reflect on it, I came to a conclusion.
I think my players were “done” because they had not taken a breath away from volleyball for six plus years. They ate, slept and breathed volleyball. Their life revolved around volleyball. They simply needed a break. When the going got tough for these guys, they could not dig deeper into their reserve tank.
They had played volleyball in their middle schools and high schools, then played club volleyball and when there was a break, they played beach volleyball. Their social lives revolved around volleyball. Was it too much? Did they not give themselves a physical and mental break from the game?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a former high school volleyball coach, a volleyball club director and the Boys Representative for the Badger Region. If there is anyone who is pro-volleyball, it is me. But I cannot ignore the fact that my guys seemed burned out.
So as we start this journey for the junior indoor club season, I encourage our athletes to find time for themselves. Taking some moments to get away from the game can actually help athletes improve. It recharges batteries and changes perspective.