[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Audrey Green has been our General Manager since 2013. In the last few years, she has made a study of self-improvement. Using her findings, she has:

·      Overcome debilitating sports performance anxiety.
·      Used the NCAA’s own rules to compete in six college sports seasons, without redshirting.
·      Landed AVCA volleyball All-American accolades.
·      Successfully lost over 30 pounds without “dieting.”
·      Optimized the tools and systems that helped grow our club from 18 teams to over 30, without any prior administrative experience.

In this post, Audrey will share four strategies that’ll separate you from your competition.

Enter Audrey Green

A scenario you’ll see a lot in competitive sports, is that the deciding factors separating first and second place are tiny. In the 2016 Olympics, Usain Bolt finished the men’s 100-meter race in 9.81 seconds, Justin Gatlin finished behind him running 9.89 seconds. That’s a 0.08 second difference between a gold and silver medal!

Given how many young volleyball players are practicing around the country, is trying to get more repetitions (or reps) than your competition the best way to beat them?

Practice and private lessons are helpful, but once you’ve mastered the basics of a sport, the higher up you go on the competitive ladder, the amount of training and experience you and your opponents have starts to equalize.

So when your rep mileage doesn’t make you special anymore, here are four things that’ll give you the edge:

1.     Journal before and after every practice. (5 minutes)
How it’ll make you better: Increases focus on priorities, making each rep count more.
Bruce Lee famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Journaling before practice puts you in the second category. By establishing specific skills to work on, you’re focused on your “one kick” instead of 10,000 unfocused ones. Adding a post-practice review of how you did, helps you recognize when you’re proficient, and ready to focus on the next skill.

2.     Practice mindfulness at least once a day. (5-20 minutes)
How it’ll make you better: You’ll learn to observe emotions on the court, instead of react to them.

If you’ve ever been nervous, mad, sad or angry while playing volleyball, you’ve seen how uncontrolled emotions are a killer on the court. Do you think Lebron James has negative self-talk while he scoring a game winning buzzer beater? Not likely.

This is going to seem very “woo-woo,” but meditation is an athlete’s best friend for mental training. The Headspace App has a ten day free introduction to meditation that I’ve used myself. The guys at Headspace describe the benefits of meditation as learning how to step back, so you’re unbiasedly watching your thoughts and emotions bustle by like cars in traffic. You just watch, and can focus on the ones that are helpful, and let the unhelpful ones ride way.

For an athlete, trained mental focus is a huge advantage.

3.     Do two handed kettlebell swings at least twice a week. (5-10 minutes)
How it’ll make you better: This one exercise improves strength, coordination, and explosiveness.

While working with a professional strength and conditioning coach is ideal, young athletes may not have the time, money or other resources to make that happen.

If that sounds like you, meet the Kettlebell (KB). This compact dynamo develops timing and strength through high intensity movements in minimal time. If you could only do one exercise to improve your volleyball game, the two handed kettlebell swing is it.

Rather than explain this exercise in words, I’ll leave it up to Pavel Tsatsouline, the worlds go-to KB expert. His instructions are HERE. Try a KB swing routine for at least four weeks, it’ll change your game.

If you want hands-on KB training, Gwen, Sarah and Angel from our Wellness Team can offer guidance: socalvbc.com/performance

As always, use your best judgment. With any lifestyle recommendation, misuse can cause injuries, or worse, and be counterproductive. Use the “sense test,” if it looks sketchy, feels sketchy, and smells sketchy – it’s sketchy. Consult a medical professional before taking on any new lifestyle routine.
4.     Adopt one new vegetable every month. (prep 5-20 minutes)
How it’ll make you better: Vegetables improve physical and mental performance (and taste delicious).
“Diets” tend to be overly complicated, cause guilt and resentment, and often fail to take into account the biggest factor that leads to changing your lifestyle: compliance.

There’s a saying: The good plan you follow is better than the perfect plan you quit.

So instead of a diet, which often focuses on REMOVING certain foods – flip it around and focus on foods you can ADD. This strategy has a higher success rate.

For 99% of young athletes, vegetables are the food that’ll separate you from your competition. So your mission, if you choose to accept, is to try one new vegetable each month. You don’t have to like the vegetable — you just need try it in multiple recipes over 30 days.

Here are a few cooking tips if you’re a vegetable novice:
·      Fat (oil or butter) and salt make everything taste better.
Fat and salt have a bad rap, but they’re only a problem with you combine them with processed food (i.e. not vegetables)
·      If a dish tastes boring, add sour or bitter flavors, like vinegars and citrus juice.
·      When all else fails, put ketchup on it. Sauce is the gateway to vegetable eating.

Vegetables also taste best when they are in season. To help you pick your vegetable-of-the month, see what’s in season HERE.

And there you have it, four resolutions to make you a better athlete, and separate you from the competition. Give them a try for at least four weeks, and let us know how it goes!

Question: What helps you differentiate yourself from your competition? Let us know in the comments below. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]