5 Career Lessons I've Learned from Volleyball

Over the course of my playing career, volleyball has taught me a lot more lessons than I can ever count. And from time to time, I am asked about what have been my biggest “life lessons” that I took away from the sport. Which is actually a pretty massive question when I really started to ruminate about it, but I have been able to boil it down to five lessons that I’d like to share:


1. Confidence is everything. Volleyball is a fast-paced game of momentum with points happening in a matter of seconds.

Every time the ball is in play – whether you’re serving, digging, setting or attacking – there’s inevitably going to be points on the line. And as player on the court it’s your responsibility to keep the ball in play… except it doesn’t always happen that way.

No matter, its up to you as a player to understand what needs to be adjusted for next time and not let the previous play shake your confidence. If you fumble, make sure you recover. Every point is a new opportunity so its your responsibility to stay in the moment and play with sustained calm and focus.

It's the same as in life - sometimes you’re going to mess up and sometimes you’re not. But you can’t let past a mistake overshadow what’s going to happen next, just as you can’t use a prior accolade to justify a mistake. You need to stay present, stay focused and believe in yourself every time.

2. Communicate, communicate & communicate some more. In the game of volleyball, the average rally is only 4 - 6 seconds  so you can't always rely on what just you’re seeing.

  Volleyball is just as much an audible sport as it is a visual one, so you really need to depend on what your teammate(s) see when you can’t - whether it's where to pass, the open area of the court to hit or how to drop your block. Communication makes the team not only play better as a unit, but it also makes you a more connected teammate and statistically a better player, In the work world, there are very few jobs or social situations where you operate in a silo, so embrace the people who are around, learn from what they know and communicate your perspective.

3. You don’t have to like all your teammates, but you do have to respect them.
Hopefully you been on one of those “magical” teams where the chemistry and camaraderie is so strong everyone naturally gels. To be honest, I’ve been lucky enough to be on two such teams in my life… but that’s out of 20+ rosters. Which means I’ve also been on a lot of teams that haven’t come together as easily.  And after witnessing my fair share of screaming, yelling and throwdowns between teammates what I’ve learned that those sorts of outbursts do more damage to the team dynamic in the long run than anything else. No matter who you’re teamed up with you have to still have a common goal that everyone can rally around (which is of course to win!). Same as in the workplace – you’re not always going to like or bond with everyone you work with, but you have to find a way to work towards common goals and treat everyone with dignity and deference. 



4. Coaches aren’t just for the court.
Coaches have always played a pivotal role in my life. In my volleyball career, they’ve taken their decades of experience and insight to teach me not only how to teach me the technical rues of the game, but also some of the mental nuances of volleyball.

If I had to guess, I’d say that for the better part of 23 years, there was always an omnipresent volleyball coach in my life. But after I stopped playing I realized that coaches don’t go away… they just assume different roles. In my professional career, my coaches became my mentors. So I encourage you to find your own mentor(s) to help you navigate your personal and professional choices because their best practices, advice and life experiences can give you a different perspective on big decisions.

5. Leave it on the court. Sometimes you’re going to win, sometimes you’re going to lose - that’s the risk you accept as an athlete. No matter what the outcome of a match, you need to let go of the results and focus on how you can improve for next time. In my career, I've given thousands of client presentations, but no matter how many times I present I always want feedback on how I can improve.

I do this because every time I walk in a room, I want to be as prepared and ready as possible; however, it doesn’t mean I’m necessarily guaranteed a desirable outcome. And that’s okay. What matters is the competitive spirit and desire to continually improve that will serve you well in life long after your last serve on the court or in the sand.  You can’t change what was, but you can be better prepared for what will be.

 

At the end of the day, never lose sight of the lessons learned playing volleyball as they will serve you well in situations far beyond the court.  The self-efficacy you reap from staying focused, communicating, respecting teammates, working with a mentor, and moving forward are skills that will last a lifetime.