Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Attention Adults: Get more out of your training!

Adults volleyball players have a different agenda than today's junior player. While eighty five percent of USAV membership consists of junior players, the sport is enjoyed by thousands of adults in every USAV region. All USAV regions support adult volleyball, however a majority of the competitions are organized by private entities through recreational leagues, tournaments and the ever growing "theme events."

Swimming, Yoga (my favorite!), biking and running are all popular ways for the active adult to stay in shape. But many adults find their way into team sports as a way of staying in shape and increasing their social circle at the same time.

There are two rules that dominate participation in sports:

Rule #1 Everybody thinks they are better than they actually are.
Rule #2 Everybody wants to play against better competition.

When trying to find a team, players seek out competition slightly ahead of their own ability--we equate our skill level with the company we keep. This is a very natural process that applies to all ages. By playing with better players, the weekend warrior feels like they put themselves in optimal position to better their skills. In volleyball, getting better sets, better passes and having a good player to help out in tight spots feels great. Many USAV regions even have ratings systems that qualify your level of play. But what about if you are not one of the physically gifted? What if you have a different goal and consider volleyball something between the end of work and a good night's sleep?

Let me offer some ideas for adult play.

Don't get hurt!

Staying healthy is a key concern. Sprained ankles, sore backs and tired arms are what volleyball is all about. What you really want to avoid is being on a first name basis with an orthopedic surgeon. The most common injury I see is when a player comes under the net and tangles feet causing another player to sprain their ankle or worse. One of the valid reasons why you do want to play with good players (on both sides of the net) is you will suffer few injuries.

One of the things I stress at my clinics is the need to keep your rotator cuff strong. I suggest purchasing a five foot piece of 3/16" latex surgical tubing. You can find these on E-bay, Google or at a local surgical supply store. There are four exercises designed to isolate and strengthen the rotator cuff. If you want to see these exercises, you can watch the two You Tube videos on my web site http://www.vbclinics.com/members.asp These exercises take about five minutes to perform. I strongly suggest you do these before you play, after the first game and when you are finished playing. Not only will you hit and serve better, but your arm will thank you many times over.

Get in Shape!

The single best exercise you can do to improve your game of volleyball is to jump stairs. For men, find a spot with sixty stairs and for the ladies, forty five. If you are in decent shape with no physical ailments, start a program of doing fifteen sets of stairs. When jumping, I suggest the men jump four at a time and the ladies three at a time. The program for the first day is to run ten stairs and jump five. Wait a day or two and then run nine and jump six. Next time out, go eight and seven.... etc....Total of fifteen reps each time increasing the number of reps you jump each time. Stop when you can get to running five and jumping ten. Listen to your body when exercising and don't overdo it.

Running hills is the second best way to get in shape for the rigors of volleyball Find an accessible hill and start running series of sprints up the hill. Again, start easy paying attention to your body.

One of the main reasons attempts at getting in shape fail is because we go through different phases of motivation. We work hard for awhile and then back off vowing to resume at a later date. Two ideas come to mind: Work out in a group setting or find a personal trainer.

Play against worse players!

Sounds silly, huh? Here is a professional secret: I often tell up and coming pros to play against and with players who are not as good as themselves. An experienced professional will play at the same level against bad teams as they will against good teams. The trick for a professional is to learn how to play the game regardless of who is on the other side of the net. If they slack off while playing an inferior team, they usually experience the same variation of concentration when playing against a superior team. Personally, I often pair myself with players of lesser ability. I do it for a simple reason--it makes me play harder and it turns into a better work out. The other great part about this idea is you will bring up the level of play in your area.

Keep the game in perspective!

One of the trademarks of great players is the ability to play well at home, on the road and in practice. The ability to get better each day in practice is the single hardest thing for an athlete to do. Many players say they come into the gym with the goal of getting better each day, but my experience is few can accomplish this feat. One of the tricks to being a good athlete is the ability to accommodate two personalities. One side is extremely competitive and domineering while the other is more passive and understanding. How does this affect you? Hot tempers are a part of sports. If something was said between you and any player during a match, go up to that person after play ends and issue a sincere apology. Every time I have extended an apology to an offended party, the player acknowledges the situation and usually laughs it off. They understand.

Have Fun!

I give a twenty minute speech at the end of each clinic talking to junior players and parents about the virtues of playing volleyball between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Boys and girls who play volleyball get better SAT scores, better GPAs, enjoy better health, better self-esteem, better friends and better relations with their community. In short, volleyball is one of the best things you can do as an activity. The sport seems to draw great people and great families into the fold. The good news is this phenomenon does not stop once you graduate high school. Volleyball is more than a sport for adults. It is a close circle of friends, it is a way of life, it is a ticket to better health and well being. Along the way, all players are going to experience some sort of difficulty. It could be inflammation in your knees. It could be a difference of strategy with a teammate. Or it could be losing a two-point game to your fierce rival. Dwelling on mistakes or tough situations much past twenty minutes is not healthy. The important part is to remember to leave it on the court and enjoy all the good the game has to offer. Have fun!

Pat Powers