Stress Wood and the Catalyst to Recruiting Process Victory

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I am passionate about helping young women navigate their way through recruiting, and passionate about guiding parents through the very murky waters of releasing their daughters to the world to fend for themselves. But, what I am most passionate about is teaching student-athletes that there is a great need in their life to learn the skills to manage 'stress' and to understand why 'stress' can be the catalyst in propelling them to their greatest victories – especially in the recruiting process.

I had been pondering about all of the stressors of the young women I counsel. Just 'hang in there' and 'don't give up' are phrases that roll off my tongue on a minute-by-minute basis. They work hard to communicate with college coaches, manage rejection, train, compete, excel in academics, fight peer pressure, dispel lack of self-confidence...the list goes on.

As I planned the outline for this article about a month ago, I struggled to find the 'concept' and how I could communicate how important the 'stressors' were to the maturity and coping skills of today's student-athletes. I knew that the 'idea' would reveal itself if I kept searching. In talking with a wise and passionate college coach about today's climate in coaching and managing athletes, she asked "Do you know the story of stress wood?" We were in a large convention center, with whistles blowing, hundreds of people talking and I was sure I did not hear her correctly. Stress wood? How could that have anything to do with athletes? She went on to explain she had recently participated in a webinar on the very subject of 'stress'. Below is an excerpt from a blog that she sent to me, The Tales at Marin Academy, dealing with the subject of student stressors.

"The Necessity for Stress"
The Biosphere 2 project was created as a research tool for scientists to study Earth's living systems, and it allowed scientists to play with farming and innovation in a way that didn't harm the planet. One of the most profound discoveries made by the scientists had nothing to do with a cure for some new disease or a new way of farming land. Rather, the discovery had to do with the wind's role in a tree's life. The trees inside Biosphere 2 grew rapidly, more rapidly than they did outside of the dome, but they also fell over before reaching maturation. After looking at the root systems and outer layers of bark, the scientists came to realize that a lack of wind in Biosphere 2 caused a deficiency of stress wood.

Stress wood helps a tree position itself for optimal sun absorption and it also helps trees grow more solidly. Without stress wood, a tree can grow quickly, but it cannot support itself fully. It cannot withstand normal wear and tear, and survive.  In other words, the trees needed some stress in order to thrive in the long run.

Dr. Rick Solomon is a speaker that the Marin Academy brought in to help their students deal with stress. He encouraged them to change the conversation. Maybe even start a new one. Rather than look at what causes stress and figure out ways to avoid it, he encouraged them to engage with stress and learn to make choices.

The author of the blog goes on to say "we are teaching our students to engage with stress, to manage the consequences of choices, which is actually the richer, more fulfilling road to success."

The idea of 'stress wood' and the tree's need for 'wind' to grow stronger directly correlates with the student-athletes need to embrace the stressors of recruiting. To tackle it head on and to understand that through the difficult times of rejection and hard work that they will find strength and courage to persevere and grow stronger.

By developing realistic expectations in regards to timelines, targeting appropriate levels of programs, viewing a 'no' as an opportunity to seek a 'yes', and embracing the knowledge that there will be struggles and how they handle it will determine their success.

In closing, I would like to share about an athlete I met with recently. She was at her emotional end, feeling like 'no one' wanted her. Through tears she asked, "if she should just 'give up' this whole recruiting thing?" For her the 'wind' felt like a tornado of 'NO's and she was about to be blown away and forever scarred by the trajectory of despair. Immediately what echoed through my mind was 'bring on the wind'!

As the silent argument ensued in my head and I struggled to not blurt out those words in fear of sending her sailing through the door...I gathered my thoughts and simply said, 'yep' this recruiting thing sucks! It's hard to understand, it's not fair and it does seem like no one is interested! Her eyes grew larger and more tears began to flow! BUT, I said "this is great because now we know how to find the absolute right fit for you! NOW you know what you want and what you don't want! You have learned so much through this process and how to deal with rejection and pick yourself up and be more determined, more focused, and wiser as you move forward!"

Fast forward one week and I pick up my phone and joy, confidence and hope exudes from this young woman after just having met with a that 'gets her', values her as an athlete and a student, and the promise of 'this could be the one'. I am confident that no matter which way the wind blows this time...this gal is firmly rooted in the determination to succeed.

Yep – Stress Wood & unlikely duo.

For related reading on the volleyball recruiting process click here. More recruiting education for players and parents is located in the JVA Recruiting Education.

About the Author

Patty Costlow is the Recruiting Coordinator for Munciana Volleyball, a long time JVA member club located in Muncie, Indiana.


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