Our Zoom calls with college players and pros this week have brought up some incredibly interesting and well thought out questions. One of the questions that one of the alumni had for our current athletes was; Why do you train?
The discussion began with one of our current athletes asking this player how her training is different now than it was before Covid-19. As she started to answer, she gave us her training schedule for college and how many hours a week she was putting into training. It was insightful for kids who train 2-3 days a week for club for 2 hours a day and perhaps get a couple of workouts in outside of practice per week to hear her tell them that she trains 20 hours a week every week. She went on to explain how she has to weight lift and condition apart from her volleyball training. I was trying to kind of put it together in my head. If you have 4 practices a week that's around 8 hours. If you are at the gym 7 days a week for an hour working out, that's another 7 hours for a total of 15 hours that you are putting in. If you are doing another 5 hours a week on your own with a ball, that would get you to 20 but that is a LOT of training. College is just a step up for pretty much everyone.
While many kids have trainers or are doing some sort of aerobic exercise, are the things they are doing training them for the sport they are playing? Is their trainer designing their workouts specifically geared to their sport or are they working out with athletes of all sports on some sort of general plan? Are they doing things to work explosive muscles or are they working more on workouts that would be done for marathon runners, cyclists, swimmers, basketball players, soccer players, etc? Are these exercises focused on agility or are you going in a straight line when you are working out? Are the exercises using a lot of heavy weight? Are you adding the lean muscle needed to propel you around the court and lift you off the ground when you need it? I only ask these questions because you need to be very aware of where you are spending your time and energy. Is it really helping to prepare you for your sport? Is that your goal with your workouts or do you have some sort of other goal in mind by doing them?
It seems that even some of the most committed juniors athletes in the country are only training about half as much per week as the collegiate athletes and that their workouts outside of practice are much less specific to the muscles they use in their sport. I think it opened some kids eyes to the fact that if they want to be prepared when they get to the next level, they may need to ramp up their 6-8 hours that they are putting in per week to their craft. While this can be difficult during a time when the gym isn't open, we can all either find excuses or we can find solutions.
After I wrote that last couple paragraphs, we got on a Zoom call with 3 time Olympian Jake Gibb. The girls were asking him about his workouts and i got the chance to ask him if there were ever workouts that he had done that he really believed would help him and then later realized were actually hurting him. He said that there absolutely were. He said that he was doing a lot of cardio and trying to cut a lot of weight so that he didn't have to carry it around the court. He said that it ended up really hurting his game to do so. He went on to express to the girl that they needed to do their research. That the two biggest things that they could do to help their game were to do their research on their coaches and trainers. He said that in order to get where you want to go you have to do the research to find the best coach to get you there and the best trainer to get you there. Then, once you have found them, you need to buy in 100%. You did the research, now you need to buy in to everything they are telling you to do. If there was someone out there that was better than them, then when you did your research, you would have found them and you would have gone there. Trust your decision.
So between talking to one of the top collegiate beach players in the country and then talking to a former Olympian, the question for the title of this post was born. Why do you train? Is it for you? Is it because your parents want you to? Is it because when you started playing you were really passionate about it and now you feel like your parents have spent the money so you might as well continue? Is it because you love the game? Is it because you enjoy being a part of a team? Is it because you are pretty good at it and want to play more and see how good you could really be? Is it because you want to play in college? Are you trying to build the skills to be able to play for the rest of your life? Is it because you get to go to California and play on the beach in the summer? Is it because you would like to try to play professionally some day?
There are so many different reasons that kids play the sport of volleyball. There is no right or wrong answer to that question, there is only YOUR answer to that question. Your answer should dictate how much time and effort you put in and how much of yourself you give to the sport. It is different for everyone. Ryan and I have talked about it so many times over the last 7 years. We are the type of coaches who will help you to chase your dream, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS, as hard as we possibly can.
One of the most crucial components in sports as well as in relationships is communication. You have to communicate what you want to get what you want. The funny dynamic between being a mostly male coaching staff working with mostly female athletes is the communication piece. We do our best to try to speak teenage girl, but sometimes, without explicit communication, we are left making assumptions. We assume that when you tell us that you want to play in college that you mean you want to play in college. We have heard comments throughout the volleyball world that we push kids to go to college. Somehow that statement is being used in a bad connotation when it is said about us. We do talk about college a lot. We talk about it because we truly believe that if you come in and work hard enough for us and put in the time and effort that we can get you there.
We also tell all of our athletes that they are the ones who have to take the steps to get there. We don't want to put any undue pressure on kids that don't want to compete in college. We enjoy creating opportunities for kids. We love helping kids to become better volleyball players. We love giving them the opportunity to interact with some incredible college players and some of the best pros in the game. We enjoy helping them learn about the game they are playing. We also love watching so many of them go on to be other things as well. College graduates, mothers, wives, career driven women. All of these types of women have come through our program over the years. You don't have to go on to be the number one player in the world to make us proud. In fact, we will ALWAYS be more proud of the young women that you end up becoming than the success you have on the volleyball court. The success on the volleyball court just seems to come naturally with the great habits you form on the court in the process of becoming incredible young women as well.
Back to the communication piece. It should be absolutely okay for any player in any program in the country in any sport to be open and honest with their coach about what their goals are. How can your coach help you to reach your goals if you have never expressed to that coach what those goals might be? If you never communicate to me what you want to do with the sport, I am absolutely going to assume that you came to me because you want to take the sport as far as you can take it. I'm going to assume that you came to me not just to make you good, but to make you great! I am going to assume every step of the way that my job is to help you fulfill your potential in the sport. I take great pride in doing that! I also take great pride in being the coach that you can come and talk to when your goals change!
A few weeks ago I got a call from a player that I have been working with for years now! Canon Bongard had committed to play in college early on and has been an absolute stud and a joy to work with over the years. She said she was struggling with some things and asked if we could meet up to talk. Of course I met up with her. As we talked, tears began to stream down this poor young lady's face. You see, she had decided that she wanted to become a nurse. I was so excited for her but couldn't quite understand why she would be sad about this decision. Anyone who knows Canon knows that she's a sweetheart and as a nurse she is going to get to change so many lives! Well, she went on to explain that she had been in a program in her high school and was learning all about it and was incredibly excited for it. I was stoked for her! She said that unfortunately, though, the classes and clinicals that she would be required to take conflicted badly with collegiate beach volleyball season at her particular school. She had already contacted her college coach and discussed it with him and they had tried to find a way to make it work for her but just couldn't. She had to tell the coach that she couldn't play for him.
I know this had to probably be the hardest decision this young lady had to make in her life to this point but I couldn't have been more proud of her. As she sat across the table from me at Starbucks, all I could think to myself was, wow, she is all grown up! What a mature decision for her to make! I'm sure she would have LOVED to be able to do both in college. I'm sure she would have loved the opportunity to go play for the school that she grew up dreaming about going to. I'm sure she would have loved the memories that she would have created with new coaches and teammates. I'm sure she would have loved to travel all over the country getting to play her sport at the division 1 college level. Unfortunately, that just wasn't in the cards for her. After a few tears, you could tell she was at peace with her decision. You could tell that as difficult as it was to tell me she was done playing volleyball, she was incredibly excited for the new path she was about to forge. I was so proud of her and so happy for her!
So you see, it is incredibly important that you communicate with your coaches what your goals are! When those goals change, you have to communicate those things too! Some of those conversations are going to be incredibly difficult for you, but they are vital to your happiness AND your success in life. This isn't just with volleyball either. Communication is the BIGGEST key to success in jobs and relationships as well. If Canon had not communicated with me, I would have gone on pushing her toward her original goal. If she had just stopped showing up without communicating to me why, I would probably have been hurt by it. Communication changed all that! Sometimes you have to be brave with communication, but I think it is something that can help ALL of us in life!
I got done with the conversation and immediately called and talked to Ryan. His first words to me were, wow, that must have been so tough for her. I'm glad she told you so we can support her in her new direction. I think that so many times we don't communicate with people for fear of conflict or for feat that we may be letting them down. That may be the case with some people, but one of the reasons I am so proud to be a part of RPM Sand is because we have worked hard to create a culture where kids can have those conversations with us.
This involuntary break that we are currently on should give you a chance to re-evaluate your goals. It should give you the chance to restructure your plan for getting there. If you are a part of RPM, it should also give you the opportunity, every day at 4:00 to ask the questions you need to ask to help you to form a plan to get you to those goals! Whatever it is that your goals might be when this is all over, however those goals might change over time, just know that at RPM, your coaches only have YOUR best interests in mind and want to support you in any way that we can! We are proud of the young people that you are and that is what matters to us most.