Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Spring 2012 issue,
reprinted on TeamUSA.org

1. Don’t just watch your teammates play volleyball.

There is never a time when you should stop working. When the ball is set to another player, do you just stop your route and watch them swing or do you immediately work hard at getting into hitter coverage? After setting a ball, do you just stand there watching the result of your set? When you are on the bench, are you just standing there or are you intently watching the game, giving your teammates pointers or supporting them when they are on the court? The little things you do when you are NOT playing the ball can make a huge difference in the outcome of the match.

John Speraw, Head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team

2. Don’t shy away from taking risks, especially in tight games or on match point.

Practice will only get you so far; developing confidence means performing a skill in tough situations when you are truly tested. Face your opponent head on and play without fear, leaving nothing on the floor but your best. Remember, taking risks sometimes results in failure, but experiencing failure leads to improvement. You can go hard or go home. There’s nothing in between!

Jordan Burgess, 2010 and 11 Girls’ Youth National Team member

3. Don’t follow the set when you’re playing defense behind the block.

This is a pet peeve of mine and I see college level defenders do it all the time. The setter will set a back slide or a ‘three’ up front and the defenders will take their first step in the direction of the set and move with their blockers. And then what happens? The hitter cuts the ball back to the exact spot where the defender was supposed to be. As a defender, you need to hold your position and then read the set and the block and the hitter before making your move. That keeps you from wasting steps and allows you to be in position to make more digs.

– Nina Matthies, former head women’s indoor and current head sand coach, Pepperdine University
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4. Don’t give up on your teammates, even in the slightest of ways.

Giving up on a teammate isn’t an option. It comes in all different shapes and forms, from the blatant ‘no effort’ on a play to less obvious actions like lack of mental focus, poor physical preparation or spiritually not being in tune to teammates. Elite athletes never give up, and they don’t allow giving up to happen on their side of the court. They will say and do the right things to bring the best effort and performance out of their teammates.

– Scott Wong, Associate women’s indoor and head sand coach, University of Hawaii

5. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes in practice.

Understand that making mistakes is the best way to learn. Push yourself to try new things and possibly fail and then pride yourself on never making the same mistake twice. Work to repeat this process over and over again and you will be a better volleyball player.

Jamie Morrison, Assistant coach U.S. Women’s National Team