When you read that title, I’m sure you were thinking that I would write about leadership, or the ups and downs associated with sports. And I could write about that…but not today! As you know, I’ve declared July “I Love Coaching” Month and one of my favorite truisms in volleyball (that can be applied to all ball sports) is: the ball never lies.Sometimes I work with young players and I sit them down and hold up a volleyball. I ask them if they can get a good look at it and they nod. Then I proceed to tell them that there is no little brain inside of that volleyball. It can only do what it’s told. I tell them that this is the most honest relationship that they will ever enter into…between them and the volleyball. That ball will always tell them the truth. It is incapable of lying. Sometimes the truth is gratifying and satisfying…but sometimes it’s humbling. Through it all, the ball never lies.Sports are complex, much like life. So let’s look at how we can apply this truism, “the ball never lies” to real life situations.
Sports scenario: A blocker at the net in a volleyball game touches the ball, but the official doesn’t see it and the blocker’s team gets the point. While the opposing team are all screaming “touch!” and appealing to the refs and the line judges, the blocker innocently goes back to her place on the court. The next server promptly serves the ball into the bottom of the net. The ball never lies.
Real life application: Things in life balance out…it’s the whole equal and opposite reaction thing. So I try not to get too high when things are going great or too low when things aren’t going the way I’d like. Life has a way of working itself out.
Sports scenario: The ball is a wonderful teacher, it’s almost like having another coach in the gym! If a player is serving and they get some sort of crazy underspin, they contacted the ball underneath center. If the setter sets the ball too tight, then she needs to correct with her shoulders. Your hitter keeps wailing the ball out of bounds? She’s got to get on top of the ball. If we teach our teams how the ball shows them what they’re doing wrong, they’ll be able to identify the problem and begin working on the solution… because the ball will only do what players tell it to do. The ball never lies.
Real life application: Not being able to do something the right way can be very frustrating…even embarrassing. We’ve got to remember that every problem has a solution and sometimes looking critically at the problem will yield the solution.
Sports scenario: You’ve got two players. They’re both awesome people, come to practice on time, work hard, and they’re great and supportive teammates. They’re also battling for a starting position. The first player, let’s call her Susie, can pass nails, hits the mess out of the ball, and is a hustler on defense. The second player, we’ll call her Becca, watches balls hits the floor on defense, shirks from balls rather than passing them, and plays it safe when it comes to attacking at the net. Both of these players are communicating with the ball…and I’m sure you can guess which conversation the coaches like best! Susie is getting the ball to perform for her in ways that Becca hasn’t mastered yet, so Susie is our starter. It’s not personal Becca. The ball never lies.
Real life application: Results matter and those who can produce the best results will get the best opportunities. Sometimes we think the boss is playing favorites, when actually they’re judging the quality of results. Or as a track coach once told me: “Yeah, I have favorites. My favorites are the people who run the fastest!”
I’m sure coaches of other sports were reading this and putting their sports spin on it…that’s great! We really are teaching our athletes about the real world when they step onto our courts and fields. Let’s be sure to make those connections with our athletes so that they can see how their athletic life can mirror their “real life”.