When someone brings up "mental toughness" in sports, we often think of athletes who never give up, back down or quit. In sports as exhilarating -- and tough -- as volleyball, players must not only understand what true mental strength is, they must also know how to develop and enhance this characteristic in themselves and their teammates. Mental toughness can help you both on and off the court.
Decide to be positive and develop the right attitude when you begin to work on your mental strength. Not only will a great attitude help you counter setbacks, mistakes or missed goals, but it will be noticed, and even emulated, by your teammates. This increases team spirit.
Take control of negative thoughts and feelings by recognizing when you have them and realizing they are not helpful or productive to your performance. The stress or feelings of inferiority you have after playing poorly will only hinder your game and diminish your mental strength.
Learn how to let go of mistakes you make -- all volleyball players make them. Mistakes are an opportunity for you to learn and play better. Figure out where you need to improve, take steps to correct the issue and then play to win -- don't play fearing mistakes.
Create a pre-game or pre-practice routine that will help you transition into the mental state of mind you need to be a strong and confident player. This could include so many things, such as listening to music, meditating, eating your favorite healthy snack, warming up with certain drills or using your lucky water bottle. Experiment and see what helps you get into the zone.
Commit yourself to practicing and training your hardest. This includes improving your communication with teammates, accepting constructive criticism and executing plays better. Ask your coach or teammates for feedback and work on whatever you feel is a weakness, be it your serve, approach or back set, for example. The feeling you get after improving a weak spot helps you improve your confidence, which lends itself to mental toughness.
Promise yourself to not accept failure, especially if you still have more to give. Whether they make a mistake during practice, lose a match or fall short of reaching a goal, those who are mentally tough in volleyball know they should not give up. If failure does occur -- and it will at some point for any volleyball player -- re-evaluate your goals and take the right steps to make them happen.
Jennifer Kimrey earned her bachelor's degree in English writing and rhetoric from St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. She's a regular contributor to the "Houston Chronicle" and her work has appeared on Opposing Views Cultures, The Austin American-Statesman, The Red Vault, The Western Vault and various other websites and publications.