October 18, 2017 • CoachingVolleyball

Four principles to make your team ‘lucky’

Maybe not frequently, but often enough I’ll have a conversation with a parent, an opposing coach, or even a player that invokes the word luck in relation to a volleyball match. Comments like, “Boy, you were lucky Sally stepped up when Suzie wasn’t playing well,” or, “You were lucky your team was able to cover line so well tonight.”

Most times I simply smile and agree, but we’re pretty sure it’s not luck that’s involved here.

An internet search for “how to make your own luck” reveals a multitude of articles, books, blogs and other items. Many of them point back to a professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire in Britain. According to Professor Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, only about 10 percent of life is purely random. The remaining 90 percent is defined by the way we think.

Professor Wiseman offers the following four principles, which I’ll use as a format on how you can make your team lucky.

No. 1: Maximize chance opportunities

This sounds a lot like being in the right spot at the right time. But it’s more than that.

On the volleyball court, it can easily relate to know your opponent. If you know the team you’re playing has a tendency to rocket jump serves long, teach your team to protect the end line. Know the likelihood of what may happen in the future based on what the team has done in the past, and then prepare your team for that likelihood.

That way, when your libero is perfectly positioned to pick up a thundering middle attack, it won’t just be luck.

No. 2: Listen to ‘lucky’ hunches

Do not disregard your own intuition. In fact, Wiseman would say work to hone your intuition. Have you ever gone against your gut and then later wished you hadn’t? I think we all have.

This is related to knowing your own team. The better you know your team, the more in tune your hunches will be. I don’t recommend blindly following every thought you might have — some of my thoughts are pretty farfetched. But, when your gut is pointing you in a direction, oftentimes you’ll be best served to follow. So get to know your team. Know not only who they are, but what they’re about, and how they respond to different situations. Be ready to make the move that feels right.

No. 3: Expect good fortune

To me, this is all about being positive. Be that coach with the smiling face. Be that coach giving encouragement. Be that coach who expects their team to win.

Volleyball is a confidence sport; A team with confidence plays so much better. A few years back, we were playing a team that was much more talented than us. Midway through the match, after we had lost the first set but were leading in the second, our opponent’s coach began to get surly. He was riding the players and getting in their face with negative comments. While I believed we had a good chance all along, it was at that moment I was sure we were going to win.

What you believe, your players will believe. So, make sure you’re thinking good thoughts and voicing them expressively.

No. 4: Turn bad luck good

On the volleyball court, this means having a contingency plan. In fact, have several contingency plans and test them often in practice.

We’re going to encounter our share of misfortune along the way. So, imagine such scenarios and develop plans to offset them. What if one of your primary passers can’t pass tonight? Or worse, what if your star pin hitter tweaks her ankle and is out for the match? What will you do?

Imagine as many as you can and practice the practical ones. It’s not luck when a player off the bench is ready to go, or you focus on an alternative option.

There’s more to it, probably much more, but this is enough to get you started. It all boils down to this — if you know your opponent, know your team, stay visibly positive, and be prepared for as much as you can, then your team might start to look “lucky.” But we’ll all know, it’s not all luck. It’s good coaching.


Dawn Redd is the head volleyball and assistant track & field coach at Beloit College, Beloit in Wisconsin.

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