3 Ways to Develop Player Ambition


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"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise."
~Socrates

I'd like to preface my thoughts by fully acknowledging that our elders seem to look at the up and coming generation with somewhat of a miffed attitude. Our club runs several seasonal leagues, youth development programs, camps/clinics and club teams so I observe and work with a variety of volleyball athletes. Over the past couple of years I have noticed a growing trend among our youth, which is a lack of ambition.  As a child I remember repeatadly hearing "you can do anything you put your mind to."

When did we go from, "go get it" to "you're trying too hard."

Based on my experience, here are 3 ways to develop and increase ambition in your players.

1.  Make It A Point To Bring Kids In For Extra Reps

During a practice a few months ago I overheard a conversation between several seventh graders. One of the athletes was talking about her volleyball goals. As she was sharing her goals with the other girls, she was getting sarcastic laughs and snide comments about her passion and desire to go anywhere with volleyball. Has it become taboo to have a goal and to truly commit yourself to trying to achieve it?

After that practice, I approached the athlete and asked if she wanted me to help her with her serve before the start of the next practice, she was elated. Each practice going forward I would show up a little earlier and help the young athlete. She started serving the ball a little better after each practice. She decided to play club for us this season. This past weekend I watched her compete at a tournament with her club team. Her team has a big lead against their opponent, and her coach gave her an opportunity to serve. She goes back and wins the match on an ace. The teams shook hands, and she ran over and thanked me for all the previous help. She was on cloud nine and couldn't wait for her next match.

A little extra work can go a long way.

2.  Teach Failure Is Success In Progress

It's terrifying to fully commit yourself to a goal. It takes sacrifice and missing out on some things that you may enjoy. The more time is invested to accomplish your goals, the less time you spend on some of the other favorite pastimes. What can be gut wrenching about it is that no matter what anyone says, how much time you invest, and how badly you want it, you might not achieve it.

You can be committed, work incredibly hard, and have an insane desire to achieve but there is no such thing as a guaranteed outcome. I think this is the biggest reason for a lack of ambition.

A fear of failure seems to have taken away the joy in possible achievement.

In this fast-paced world in which we live today, I feel that almost everyone is seeking instant gratification. It would appear that young athletes are mistaking the painful process of development for failing and then giving up before they give themselves a chance to be successful. I hear players say all the time, "I'm not good at this so I don't like it." When they hit the wall, we need to be there for them. Motivate them to keep fighting. Remind them there is nothing more satisfying than to invest yourself in a goal. Whether or not you accomplish it, you will be thankful for all of your effort.

Failure can be scary but nowhere near as bad as regret.

3.  Be Patient

This is easier said than done. In order for the two items above to take place, we as coaches must be patient with our athletes. We cannot expect our kids to be patient with their development and "trust the process" if we are not going to be patient with them. Be the consistent resource the players can use to seek to continue their growth.

John Wooden said "if we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward." Kids today are still just kids. They might act a little different, but they are still looking for our guidance. Don't take that responsibility lightly, and make sure to provide it to them.

For related reading for junior volleyball coaches click here. For more reading on culture click here.

About the Author

Spencer Kaszuba is an Assistant Director for Rolling Thunder Volleyball, a JVA member club located in Lake Zurich, Illinois. He is also the Master Coach, responsible for composing all of the practice plans throughout the club. Spencer also manages college recruiting for Rolling Thunder athletes and families. For more information on Rolling Thunder Volleyball program visit www.rollingthundervbc.com.


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