From personal experience as an athlete and as a coach, sideline body language can really make or break an athlete. Whether it’s from your coach, your teammate, your parent, or other people in the stands, knowing how your body language appears really shows to athletes. Growing up, I can recall several coaches that had horrible body language while I was competing and how much it affected my desire to play basketball.
In this article and video (click here to access), Grant Small, a former coach and professor from the University of Albertay, Dundee, brings awareness of the message role models (parents & coaches) can give to athletes when they appear to look unsupportive of an athlete when the athlete does something wrong. This can be portrayed in a variety of ways: arms folded, hands on top of head, turning your back on the game, scowling.
I thought this would be a good article to share with everyone as I recently became aware that I should check my own sideline body language. I realized when we miss a serve, I scrunch up my face. Clearly not the right thing to do. When I finally realized it was something I did (not all the time, but sometimes), I made sure to keep my face composed and work on keeping a positive environment. That includes reminded each athlete to either: perform their mistake ritual (and perform it with them), remind them what they can do next time to be more successful in their serve, and/or tell them to “come back with a pass.” Coaches value each member of their team and we never want them to feel like they are not good enough.
As parents, start thinking about and watching your own body language in the stands. Are there facial expressions, disengagement/not paying attention, or negative nonverbal things you are doing that could possibly discourage your player? What could you do to encourage your daughter and her teammates during games?
As players, start thinking about and be aware of your own body language on the bench and on the court. Are there things you see in your teammates that encourage you? Are there things you see in your teammates that discourage you? How can you change/adapt your body language to be an even better teammate?
Parents: Ask your player what you could do from the stands to encourage them - something they want you to say, a signal you can give them to encourage them, etc.
Players: Ask your parents, coaches, or teammates what your typical body language looks like during games. From this perspective/new information, how can you improve your body language to encourage your teammates?
This will help create a more positive and supportive experience for everyone involved. So let's all work together to be the best supporter and encourager to all of our players/teammates we can be!
Last night the Olympic games came to an end. Hopefully you had a chance to watch some individual and team events over the last two weeks. There were some great stories and learning opportunities. One night Whitney texted me about the curling match between USA and Canada (Canada had won 36 out of the last 57 world titles with USA only winning 4).
For those that didn’t get a chance to see any curling this year there are teams of 4 men or women and each team member had a microphone so you could hear what they were saying. It was team USAs 2nd to last shot and a difficult shot was needed. The guy throwing the “rock” was going back to throw and he was “wow that’s a hard shot… but I’m going to throw it perfectly”.
There was so much pressure and intimidation because who they were playing and what was at stake. He could have focused on all of the challenges, but instead he had great “SELF TALK”, his teammates were super supportive and he made the shot that he knew he could do. It was a great example of what we have been talking a lot with the 15-1s in the last couple of weeks.
PCA had great blog on the Olympian’s Mindset a couple weeks ago. It was a VERY good article that I hope all parents and players read and think about. What principles have you already adopted, which ones could help you become a better athlete and person.
You Don’t have to Finish First to be a Winner:
Athletes can exhibit integrity and positive character in all aspects of sport and in life. They don’t depend on winning to maintain confidence, a passion for playing and practicing, joy in being with their teammates and a commitment to becoming a better version of themselves as athletes, as teammates and as people.
Control The Controllables:
Athletes can’t control their opponents, the officials, the weather or the score (and countless other competitive variables), but they can control many factors. Focusing on and targeting the variables under their control can help athletes improve, enjoy the process, maximize their potential and play like champions. So, when we ask athletes to “Control the Controllables,” we emphasize things like attitude, work rate, effort, their response to errors, bench behavior, good sporting behavior, being a good teammate, positive body language and productive actions to name a few.
Understand the power of “new math” 1 + 1 =3:
We remind our team that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are stronger together. We challenge our athletes to “make a teammate look good”, to “play for something bigger than themselves”, to adopt a “team first” attitude and celebrate and recognize a range of important team behaviors much broader than simply talent on the court.
Play in the now:
There are only three points in time; the past, the future and NOW. Only one of those time frames is under your control, and that is “playing in the now." It’s so easy to get caught up in the future: if we score, or don’t, if I make the team or don’t, if we win a gold medal or don’t and on and on and on. Equally likely is the temptation to dwell on the past: thinking about a mistake you made, the “bad” call from the official or the time the coach corrected you in public. However, only when you focus on the now, the present, this moment, this pass, this serve, this dig, only then are you really in control as an athlete.
Adopt a beginner’s mindset:
We challenge our athletes to expect to learn something new each and every day. When you expect to learn, you do! Have a spirit of openness and cultivate a growth mindset. Be coachable. Take responsibility to share knowledge and experience and insight as often as you ask for help, guidance and correction. Appreciate small improvements in any of the four pillars, and understand that big things come from the smallest changes.
We hope you continue to find benefit with these weekly PCA articles. We hope that these might spark conversations with your parents/daughters/teammates. This one is our 9th article that we’ve posted, all of the other ones are still out on the Thunder Volleyball website (www.thundervb.org)
Coach Ali here! This week I am going to talk about Growth Mindset. If you are looking for a good book to read, I would highly recommend “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. I had to read it for one of my classes in my education masters program. One of the best assignments I had to complete because it is so relatable/useful for teaching and coaching. Here is the gist:
What is it?
We used to think that our intelligence was fixed - meaning we were either smart or we weren’t. Scientists have proven again and again that simply is not true. Our brain acts like a muscle - the more we use it, the stronger (and smarter) our brain becomes.
Is your mindset fixed?
A person with a fixed mindset may do these things:
Give up easily
Is threatened by other people's success
Try hard to appear as smart or capable as possible
What does a growth mindset look like?
A person with a growth mindset may do these things:
Give their best effort
Learn from feedback
Become inspired by other people's successes
Believe their intelligence can change if they work hard
How can you help your child:
Talk about it
Talk with your child about their day, but guide the discussion by asking questions like:
Did you make a mistake today? What did you learn?
What did you do that was difficult today?
Praise the process
Instead of saying, "You're so smart!" praise effort, goal setting, persisting through challenges, or being creative. You can say something like: "Wow! You must have worked really hard on this!"
The brain can grow!
Remind your child that their intelligence is NOT fixed. Remind them that when things are difficult, their brain grows if they persist through the challenge. Each time they learn something new, their brain is making new connections. Your child needs to know this is possible!
Help them change their dialogue
The way your child talks to herself makes a huge impact on their mindset. If they say, "This is too hard!" help them change that to "I can't do this yet, but I will keep trying." Give them words to say when they are feeling defeated by modeling it yourself!
Encourage failure (Say what?!)
Your child needs to know that failure can (and often does) happen and it is okay! Remind them that each time they fail and try again, their brain is growing stronger! Don't step in to prevent your child's failure - this is how they learn to perservere in the face of challenges.
My hope is that my athletes will develop a growth mindset on the volleyball court and in the classroom. I hope they understand that their effort will pay off! Also remember the “Power of Yet.” If you would like another article to read, check out the Positive Coaches Alliance Article, “Using the Growth Mindset to Become Self Confident.”
There was a previous article written about how to redirect nervousness into more positive traits. I (Jeri) wanted to expand on that idea and identify other methods to help ease performance anxiety. I’ve had my fair share of moments when my nerves got the best of me and it took me awhile to get out of my own head. In this article (click here to access) Kristi Pikiewicz, Ph.D writes about guided imagery and meditation to help “disarm the fire alarms” of performance anxiety. Visualizing the perfect performance, the perfect warm-up, the perfect serve before competition can help with feelings of nervousness.
Coaches Ali, Elise, and myself, had guided imagery before every high school volleyball match from our head coach. Just 5-8 minutes before every game we were guided through tense release for our whole body and then imagery of our warm up. Luckily we were provided a quiet area before each match. LIttle did I know that imagery would benefit me though my college years (in track & field), but first I had to find it again. Once I went to college I had to supply my own guided imagery with my own narrative. I was grateful to have been exposed in my earlier years to help me with my mindfulness.
Parents: Ask your player how often they feel nervous before competition.
Players: Share one way you deal with pre-game jitters.
If you’re interested in guided imagery, please talk to your coach about a narrative. A few minutes of practice time can be used for guided imagery for athletes to gain exposure for them to practice individually.
From personal experience & knowing others' experiences, one of the hardest parts of volleyball is being able to let go of mistakes and move onto the next point, especially during games. It can feel like you are letting down your team or fans. And it can be disappointing to yourself when you don’t perform at your best. However, in order to be the best player possible, it is necessary to learn how to let go of mistakes so you can move on to the next play and show off your best skills.
In this article and video (click here to access) Tina Syer, a Division I field hockey coach, gives advice to players and teams how to work on letting go of mistakes. She talks about using a “mistake ritual” within your team to help players let go of mistakes. Syer suggests using a hand signal, such as brushing off your shoulders, or a certain phrase, like “let it go”, within a team to encourage others and yourself to let go of mistakes. For a player to see their teammates, coaches, and parents using the “mistake ritual” during games or practices can encourage her to move onto the next play. It shows the player that no one is mad or disappointed in her, allowing her to move on more quickly and not get down on herself while playing.
Parents – Ask your player what you can do to encourage them when she makes a mistake during a game.
Players – Share how it feels when you make a mistake during a game so your parent can better understand how to help and encourage you.
If your team doesn’t have a “mistake ritual” yet, ask your coach about making one. It is something that can bring your team closer together and help everyone play at their very best!
As the season is getting underway and all of the teams start playing in tournaments more frequently, it can be very nerve-wracking for some players. This mental skills coach gives tips within the article & video (click here to access) about how to turn that nervousness before games into positive traits which enables players to compete at their highest level. He focuses on turning that nervousness into courage, compassion, & competitiveness. He says it’s important to have courage to accept feeling uncomfortable and afraid. Compassion for yourself is essential so you can trust yourself, everything you’ve learned, and belief that you can overcome any obstacle. Finally, you need competitiveness to help you get excited about getting to play a game you love and work hard at in every practice.
Parents – What would your player appreciate you doing as a parent to encourage her before games?
Players – Share one way you can be courageous, compassionate, or competitive before your next tournament to help calm your nerves.
As coaches, we all believe in each player immensely and want to help them be the best player they can be! If there are great ideas that come from this article or your conversation with your player, please share with your coach! We would love to be able to help everyone compete at their highest level!
As we start this New Year it can be a time for many people to stop to reflect and make resolutions about how to make this next year the best it can be. This article (click here to access) is about the importance of effort and how to set goals in order to improve your game. Setting goals is the result of effort, and putting in effort results in being at the top of your game.
Within this article there is a link to an excerpt (click here to access) from a book called Elevating Your Game which gives two steps to increase the essential habit of working hard. The first step is to belief that effort and hard work can increase your talent. The PCA talks about “Triple-Impact Competitors” having a growth mindset and approach ability. According to the PCA this means these competitors focus on effort goals and “believe that effort and hard work can increase your talent level.” Everyone should download this extra article because it gives so many practical ways to improve effort and therefore improving your game!
Parents – How can you encourage your player to work hard in all aspects of life?
Player – What do you have to change in order to have a growth mindset and give all your effort?
Hopefully this article helps players develop goals to increase their effort and natural talents both on and off the court!
If there is anything as a player or as a parent you would like to see an article about in the future, please let us know! You can email
and we would love to find articles about topics that interest you specifically too!
If you have questions about what training you need to take please talk to your coaches. If you have any issues accessing the information from the links listed above please email me (
) or give me a call.
Here is the second edition of the Positive Coaching Alliance email. This week as many people are celebrating Christmas and getting together with loved ones, it seemed appropriate to share an article about gratitude. This time of the year is a great time to reflect on this past year and all there is to be grateful for.
This article (click here to access) is written by Steve Foster, a pitching coach for the Colorado Rockies baseball team. He challenges the readers to practice the art of being grateful which allows people to be more joyful and live in the moment. Foster provides five habits that have been researched to increase gratefulness and challenges readers to try any or all of the tips for 21 days to create or improve their gratefulness in everyday life.
Parents – Share at least one way you are grateful for your player
Player – Share at least one way you are grateful for volleyball
As a Thunder staff, we reflect often on ways we are grateful for all the parents & players on our teams. We love spending time with each player and parent, and we look forward to the time we will get to continue to spend with each of you!
Merry Christmas from all of the Thunder Volleyball Staff to you!
As we talked about in the beginning of the season we are going to regularly try to send out articles or interesting things published by the Positive Coaching Alliance. Hopefully we can get better at sending them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis! In addition to the article we will include a conversation starter for the parents and players to connect and talk about what we send out. So without further adieu...
For the first email we thought it would be a good idea to share more about the Positive Coaching Alliance background. This PDF (click here to access it) shares what the "PCA Way" is all about. As a program we strive to achieve each of those 8 points at every practice, game, or get together.
Conversation Starter: What are you doing at practice to give your best effort, have fun, & help a teammate? What can I do (as the parent) to "fill your emotional tank"?
We hope these will be helpful to start meaningful conversations and build connections between parents & players. Also we hope this helps parents, players, & coaches be on the same page and build a stronger team and larger Thunder community.
As always let any of the Thunder staff know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns!