A Sport for the Ages! (Playing Competitive Volleyball at 60, 70 and Beyond!)

“Set One” — Lesson One

For seasoned athletes, in spite of age and a relentless clock, the imperative is to stay the course. There needn’t be an expiration date stamped on the psyche, either self-imposed or by public affirmation. Put another way, if one enjoys a healthy mind and body, if joints still flex with relative ease and comfort, it’s possible to play until Medicare kicks in, and for many, well beyond that venerable age. For its many devotees, it truly is a sport for the ages! The game of the high net, a remarkably fine, vigorous and competitive sport, when played well, when played by the rules. The uninitiated need only watch college volleyball or professional beach or Olympic volleyball.

To illustrate and to cite an exemplary case in point, Steve and Gigi have played for ages, since 1974 to be accurate. The great game continues to consume their disposable leisure time. For them, it’s a kind of obsession, and one that has continued unabated for more than 40 years. Now at age 72, Steve, and 68, Gigi, they’re still in its grip.

Obsession is an apt description. In a way, it all began at the bell, a telephone bell, and like a current between extremes, it seems always to race between foreboding and hopeful anticipation. Spurred by that opening bell, they soon became prizefighters fired with passion, roped in, initially by the idea, but in the long run, consumed by the game itself, obsessed.

The ringing telephone was loud and insistent. Steve refused to move. Glaring with annoyance in her eyes, Gigi put down a book and walked quickly, almost ran to subdue the obnoxious thing.

“Shall I just get it?” she asked with extravagant sarcasm. “Yes, hullo!”

Steve paid no attention at first, irritated by the instrument’s persistence, its power to interrupt.

“Oh, hi John. What? Yeah, we’re both fine, just hanging out. How’s Joan? That’s good.”

Steve’s attention moved slowly, as did his gaze, to a conversation that was one-sided and cryptic. Her eyes widened. She turned. She paced.

“You think we should do what?” Gigi asked into the instrument, a question wrapped in incredulity, yet with a rising level of excitement. Enthusiasm seemed to boost the current running through the wire.

“What,” he said. Who is that?” The question fell flat as if inaudible, trivial.

“Join a league? Couples, co-ed. Yeah, I played a little in high school. Steve? No. I don’t think so. Maybe at picnics, or in the backyard with family.”

“What did I do in the backyard?” he asked. Another feckless question, no reply expected or given.

“That sounds just great,” Gigi said with growing excitement. “Where? And it starts in January? That’s next month! Yeah, yeah… exercise, something we can do as couples with friends. OK, great! Alright, we’ll talk on Monday and you can let us know the time and schedule.” She hung up the phone.

“Was that John O’Connor?” Steve asked. “What were you talking about? What league?”

“I just love the idea,” Gigi replied. “Yeah, it was John. You and I, the O’Connors and the Keegan’s are going to play volleyball in a co-ed league. The six of us. We start next month. We’ll play at a north side school. It’s near Sherman on Green Tree Road.”

“Wait a minute,” Steve began. “We’ve never played. We don’t know the game. Do they have strict rules? Are the other teams in the league experienced, talented? How are we going to do that?”

“Ach… don’t worry,” said Gigi. “I played in school, and we’ll learn. We’ll get better. It’ll be great fun. We’ll have exercise, time with friends. It’ll be terrific. I’m really looking forward to this. Aren’t you?”

“Volleyball,” he said, a strong note of apprehension in his tone. “A league,” he continued, a heavy sigh punctuating. And that was the sum total of any objection or argument he might have offered in opposition. But, within the privacy of his thoughts, there was this: “I’m married for, what, four or so months. I’m just getting used to things. Now I’m in a volleyball league. How long will this last. My god, life’s a runaway freight train; it moves along way too fast!”

Despite an inauspicious beginning, reluctance on the part of at least one participant, their volleyball-playing career, one that would last for 40 years and beyond, began in 1974.

It was in early September of that year. Six novices appeared on a wood-plank floor at the gymnasium of a north side Milwaukee school, some nervous, some calm and confident. They lined up, three in front and three in the back row. They knew that much. The opposition won the first service. The ball was a meteor, something shot from a cannon. One of the six made contact with the ball, palms up, lifting the volleyball a few feet skyward. It dropped to the floor, between front and back rows of players. Even the ball seemed embarrassed.

A shrill whistle wrenched their collective attention from the shock of the serve and its feckless receipt to the referee’s ladder of authority. “Illegal hit,” the referee shouted. She descended, looked at each of the six in turn and asked, “Has any of you ever played volleyball before?” The question was wound in a thread of astonishment.

“Uh, not really. I mean, some of us played a little in high school, but that was a while ago.” The reply came from Gigi.

“Well,” the referee began, with a nod of apology to the opposing team, now standing and staring at the neophytes, arms akimbo, a look of supreme annoyance on their collective expression. “The first thing you should know about league volleyball, and the rules that apply, is that you receive a service with your arms outstretched like this, hands clasped together in some manner.” She demonstrated the “passing” technique, tossing a volleyball to each in turn so that they could learn the proper arms and hands configuration. “And when you set the ball to your hitter, you may not catch and throw the ball, but rather… well, let me show you.” She demonstrated the “setting” technique.

None of them recalls that first outing with any sense of joy or satisfaction, as they were destroyed, unremittingly. They expressed thanks to that kind and patient referee, and then to the opposing team members, as they slunk away from the court that first, fateful evening of league volleyball. They may not have scored a single point, unless their opponents made an error. Even that possibility is lost — probably by design — to the element of memory that protects one’s fragile psyche.

“Set Two” — The Birth of “Poet’s Pride”

Steve met brothers Mike and Jimmy Keegan at a day camp long ago. The four of them — two sets of young brothers — were all close in age, and a lasting friendship between and among them began almost instantly. Little did they know, then, how volleyball would bond their friendship even more tightly.

At 8:00 PM or so the following day, Thursday, the telephone announced its summons, inserting as always to Steve’s ears a tone of urgency, possibly fomenting unpleasantness. As usual, he remained unmoved. Gigi raced toward the repulsive instrument. “Hullo.”

Gigi’s audible half of the conversation was as usual provocative, causing Steve to lay aside a novel. She began, “Hi Mike. They are? You’re kidding. I didn’t know that. Wow, that’s great. And they’re willing to work with us? Oh, that’s terrific. When? Saturday! Where?”

“Huh?” Steve asked. A rare reaction, not known for laconic discourse.

Returning to the living room, the echoing “Huh” and Steve, Gigi said, “Jimmy and Carol are excellent volleyball players. They’ve been playing league volleyball for years. That’s what Mike called to tell us.”

“Yeah,” Steve responded. What does that mean for us?”

“They’re willing to coach us, teach us how to play, how to bump and set. Drills. We’re meeting them at (a west side Middle School) on Saturday at 11:00 in the morning. The six of us… and Jimmy and Carol of course. This is just great!”

Steve said, “Yeah, but… ”

“I’m calling Joan,” said Gigi, as she walked away from his unheeded beginning of a protest, a questioning of any Saturday plans they may have made, obligations. Steve’s mouth remained open, silent and ineffectual, his hand raised, index finger pointing upward, a mime hailing a taxi.

Saturday arrived. Steve and Gigi, having donned shorts and sweat pants, T-shirts and sneakers, motored off to the school, named for a famous poet. There were eight gathered on the floor of the “borrowed” gymnasium. They greeted one another. The women chatted. The men were eager to begin “the lesson,” more so the physical exercise portion of “volleyball camp 101.”

Jimmy seized everyone’s attention without preamble. In a commanding voice he began, “First let me show you the right way to bump-pass a volleyball. You can practice this with each other, or against a wall. It’s a great drill. I suggest you do this a lot.” He demonstrated. “Here’s how you receive a serve. It’s really important to pass the ball correctly to your setter. Remember, it all begins with the pass. I mean, if you pass the ball correctly to the setter, she, or he, can then set to one of your hitters. If you do it right, if you start with a good pass, the rest flows easily. You’ll score points.”

They drilled, and drilled that first day of practice. They passed to one another, passed against walls to themselves. For Steve — the wall, a garage roof, the side of a building, his wife, Gigi — all became frequent training partners.

Carol was, still is an excellent setter. She demonstrated. “Frame the volleyball like this.” She set to herself, hands just above her head, framing, head tilted toward the ceiling. “In a way you sort of catch the ball using mainly your thumbs, index and middle fingers. Bend your knees slightly when doing this. Your body sort of acts like a torsion spring. Your hands and arms — in one fluid motion — meet the ball and send it up to the hitter. No, no,” she coached, reacting to one who tried the technique poorly. “Flex your wrists like so. They too receive the ball in a kind of spring action, as if catching and passing in the same motion.”

The rest of the novices practiced the technique. Drilling and passing and setting to one another, back and forth, over and over. “OK,” said Carol. Let’s try to play a game. Jimmy and I will stand the six of you.”

“What!” said Steve, reacting in shock amazement. That’s not fair.” It was. They murdered the “new kids,” the two of them, beating them easily, embarrassingly so. “Good god,” Steve said to Gigi and their four partners. “They’re really good. Unbelievable.” Trite, but the only words that seemed able to escape Steve’s flabbergasted brain. “I mean, holy mother of Henry Wadsworth, they beat hell out of us. Just the pair of them!”

The practice sessions went on for weeks, stretching into months on a succession of Saturdays. They practiced and drilled and practiced some more. Eventually, they, the six novices, began to “get it,” to understand and then execute the passing, setting and hitting techniques. And then they practiced the overhand serve, or the underhand or sidearm service, and, of course, receipt of service. They practiced “digging” the ball, or receiving and sending aloft a hard-driven serve, or a hit, spike or kill, the latter term now used most widely in volleyball circles, especially by professional announcers. They all truly wanted to learn how to play, the right way — not like “backyard” hacks who “carry” the ball or receive service with feckless, against-the-rules open-handed lifts — but like “real” volleyball players, Olympians and college varsity players and beach volleyball pros. They never stopped practicing and playing, until — like so many who have fallen in love with the game — all six were hopelessly hooked.

The new team of six continued to play in the Wednesday night league, actually beginning to win matches, not many, but a few. They learned a good deal of trivia about volleyball, the net and the court, its dimensions. The net is about 8-feet high, or to be precise, 7′ 11-5/8″ for men, 7′ 4-1/8″ for women. The court is approximately 60-feel long, 30-feet wide.

As they began to acquire skill from hours of practice and drilling, their confidence grew, along with a certain level of bravado. They decided to name that first team. Because of the learning experience, and because the school’s name seemed to some of them remarkably obvious, they dubbed themselves, “Poet’s Pride.”

Steve doubted whether the namesake would have been proud; more importantly, they were proud of themselves, a pride of lions ready to challenge rivals and to pursue their quarry relentlessly. They’d become emboldened, fearless, a band of big cats, strong and proud. The new team wanted a symbol of hard-won skill and determination, an emblem of collective pride. “Wait! T-shirts! We have to have team uniforms,” announced John with authority.

Soon they had team jerseys, green and white “uniforms” with the newly adopted name emblazoned on left chest position in white lettering. Each had a number on the back in eight-inch high print, using heat-sealed numerals. They were magnificently attired for battle. Now they not only had the training, the acquired skill, the chutzpah and heart, they had the look. Uniforms, unity of purpose, precision and a keen sense of momentum, a bravado that lasted until the next time they were roundly trounced by an opposing team.

The team that vanquished theirs, on one memorable occasion contained a remarkable oddity. All were aware of it, but it was Steve, always bright and observant, who was willing to give voice to his team’s collective astonishment. He discretely pointed out the anomalous individual. “See that guy? His name is Milan, I think. Do you know how old he is?”

“Uh, no,” John replied. “But he’s certainly a heckuva lot older than the rest of us.”

“He’s in his mid-forties,” Steve continued.

“Come on,” said John. “I mean, he looks a lot older than us, but mid-forties. Can someone that old really still play league volleyball. I mean, he’s their best player. He’s exceptional. What a hitter!”

“He’s about 46,” said Steve. “That’s what one of his teammates told me.”

“Holy jumpin’ up and down,” said John. “That’s incredible. Do you think we’ll still be capable of playing volleyball at his age? I mean, that guy plays like he’s 26, not 46. Good god!”

Steve pulled a quizzical face, shrugged and shook his head. “Who knows,” he said, as we both turned to stare at and admire that “old man,” perhaps the best player either of them had ever seen, live and in person. And he and his team had just beaten Steve’s team flat, making it look way too easy.

But then, in the following week’s match, “Poet’s Pride” rebounded. They regained confidence, momentum and the winning side of the ledger. Such is the up and down, the ebb and flow of league volleyball play. Win or lose, it didn’t matter as much as playing, getting better, gaining experience. In the end, of course, to most who play competitive sports, winning DOES matter, and in time they began to win championships. And they won lots of them, along with useless trophies, eventually replaced by T-shirts, a much vaunted and far more desirable symbol of volleyball achievement. None of them recalled or even cared about the win / loss record of that first pivotal season. It launched most of them — some of them — into a lifelong love affair, an innamorata, a secondary love perhaps, but real, enduring and consuming.

“Set Three” — “Sand and Storm”

Not content with indoor volleyball, exclusively, usually played on hardwood courts, the newly formed team of six decided to venture into spring / summer sessions, outdoor court play, and eventually onto the sand of “beach volleyball,” well, to be accurate, sand volleyball, as most courts available for league play were — and are increasingly today — in rear or side enclosures of tavern and bar properties. It began in the Summer of 1975. Gigi was pregnant with her first child.

Amusingly illustrative of her growing passion for the sport, Gigi had asked her pediatrician, “Can I play volleyball without jeopardizing my baby in the first trimester? What about the second? The third? Can I dive onto the court for hard-hit spikes?” The doctor, while judicious in his advice, in the end gave in to Gigis demand for truthful answers and compromise.

“Just be cautious,” said Dr. Ken. “Do what your body tells you to do.” Gigi continued to play until a week before she delivered the couple’s first-born child, a daughter. Their teammates bought their newborn daughter a tiny T-shirt. It was green and white, and imprinted on the left side of the front were the words, “Poet’s Pride.”

Prior to their devotion to sand-court volleyball, in the spring and summer seasons of 1975, “Poet’s Pride” played on green grass and on asphalt-paved city park playground courts. In one of their outdoor park seasons, teammate, John, caught an out-of-bounds hit by the opposition, simultaneously shouting, “Time!” They were locked in a tie, but the timed session was running short, and John thought his team could re-group and perhaps win that season-ending championship game. The thing was, however, if one contacts a ball hit out of bounds, that is, any contact of that nature results in a point for the opposing team.

“Point,” the referee shouted. The game and the championship were lost in that instance. Deflated but ever optimistic, Steve’s team resolved to learn by their mistakes. “There’s always next season.” The words were spoken with faint confidence and without much enthusiasm by a few of the six as they retreated from the court, heads bowed and shaking in disbelief.

As summer surrendered to fall and fall to the invasive chill of winter, the prideful band of ever-improving volleyball combatants played at a variety of venues, high school and middle school gymnasiums — including one that was part of a religious order’s facilities in suburban St. Francis — grade school gyms, anyplace that was devoted on a weekday evening to league play. They even played in an indoor sand facility, built specifically for co-ed team volleyball. Wherever league play and obsession beckoned, they’d enjoy the usual three game set, and then repair to a sponsor’s tavern or a sponsoring facility’s bar for post-game drinks and seemingly endless conversation about the evening’s play, teams and the skill, or lack thereof, of individual players. Players were analytical and philosophical, endlessly fascinated. Volleyball became, if not actually “their lives,” at least a significant and key element of those lives. And volleyball — it was Gigi who first observed the obvious — “is like life itself. A metaphor for life. A microcosm of the human experience.”

As if calculated to prove the assertion, teammates would come and go. Some lost interest and dropped out of the sport. Partners, husbands and wives split up and eventually divorced. Fellow players with whom Steve and Gigi developed friendships came and went, moved away or disappeared from their spheres of consciousness.

Personalities in volleyball are as diverse as the teams and individual players themselves. Fond of them as Steve especially was — certainly more than most — nicknames were attached to certain players and their idiosyncratic behaviors. John, the original catalyst to begin playing the grand game, was a lefty, became an excellent hitter, or master of the “kill,” and thus was dubbed, “Captain Southwind.” “Florence of Arabia” was famous for her dramatic dives onto sand courts in her valiant efforts to dig hard-hit spikes, creating small sand storms as she landed and then rose up triumphantly. “Sasquatch Sam” had huge feet and was continuously imperiling opponents. He would leap, land unceremoniously and regularly commit “foot fouls,” sometimes wounding ankles and feet in the process, causing opposing players to howl in pain and issue loud, often obscene protestations.

“Did you see that?” Someone would call time and launch a harangue at the referee. “He might have broken my foot. Didn’t you see that? Pay attention to the (expletive deleted) game, fer crying out loud!” Referees, like the players themselves, were sometimes well trained and excellent, in tune with the game and its rules, or mediocre and occasionally downright inept. Needless, perhaps, to add, player protests and complaints would frequently assault the ears of patient referees, and quite often players would be cautioned or even threatened with expulsion, at times ejected from the game.

Steve and Gigi’s participation has gone on and on, despite injury, pregnancy and the proclivities of a great variety of teammates and fellow enthusiasts. After some 20 years, or so, into their team volleyball experience, having gained and lost their original and many subsequent teammates, they eventually reunited with their mentors, their original “teachers,” Jimmy and Carol.

Gigi and Steve encountered Carol at a social function, perhaps at a coffee shop, might have been a grocery store. “Are you two still playing volleyball?” Carol asked.

Gigi replied. “We’ll play until we’re can’t play any longer.”

“Maybe ’til we’re dead,” Steve added, aiming for a touch of comic drama.

“Jimmy and I would love to have you two join us, as a team, the four of us,” Carol said. “What do you think?”

As if a pair of stereo speakers, obnoxious twins doing a gum commercial, they replied almost in unison, “We’d love to. We’re in! Where, when?… ”

“Set Four” — Four Decades and Counting

In Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1994, there was a facility built almost exclusively for volleyball and the co-ed league play phenomenon that it had become in the late 1980s, into and throughout the decade of the 90s, and well beyond, of course. That fine sports complex was a comparatively long drive for the four newly reunited teammates, but they’d share the driving duty, each couple alternating weeks. They began their “four-pack” experience shortly after the volleyball venue in Waukesha opened its doors.

They were four players in a six-person league. The center contained six full volleyball courts; it was and remains an excellent facility. The floors were made of a “forgiving” rubberized material, easy on the knees, easy on aging bodies diving to dig “kills” delivered by talented opponents. The four-person team won, perhaps, eight of ten championship rounds in as many seasons or sessions of play. The four of them had “aged gracefully” into the great sport. If they had lost a bit of speed and quickness, they made up for it in “smart play.” Jimmy was perhaps the best placement hitter among legions of fellow players, in fact among the best many players had ever seen, and many remarked on it with incredulity. He was the master of the “long dink,” a method of sending the ball to the far opposite side or corner of the court, an “uncovered” space. Carol and Gigi were and continue to be excellent setters, good occasional hitters and adept at defense, placement and “drop shots.” Steve was and still is a competent defensive and back row player, and a consistently competent hitter.

Within a short span of time during its history, the volleyball center in Waukesha added an enclave of sand courts in its “backyard,” and the four-person team won summer-league championships on that venue as well. They frustrated opponents, many if not most of them half their age at the time. They’d be warming up, passing, setting and spiking the ball to one another as opponents appeared on the court. The four “more seasoned” players could see, and often hear younger opponents snickering, commenting without pretense or disguise.

“My god,” one would begin, “look how old those guys are. Is that their whole team? This won’t take long.” And they’d grin and snicker and chortle into cupped hands.

After the four beat their “six-pack” opponents handily, opinions, expressions of surprise and post-match banter were often remarkably similar. Too polite, on most occasions, to question ages directly, they’d invariably ask, “How many years have you guys been playing?” Or, “How long have the four of you been together, I mean, playing volleyball as a team?”

And like experienced, aging warriors, with dignity and aplomb, the four would answer their questions respectfully, even paying compliments, as elder states-persons or teachers might offer to young students or callow youths who have come into newly acquired knowledge with a sense of wonder and astonishment. A secondary aim was to keep the younger players interested, motivated and encouraged to improve their skills.

Gigi is now 68 years old. Carol has surpassed 70. They have a good friend and fellow volleyball player, Gene, who is 70-years-old. Gene is master of the “pancake dig,” a method of diving flat for a spike and getting a hand under the ball just as it reaches the floor, causing the ball to pop up, ideally, to the setter. Abie is in his late sixties. Many of their current, fellow players are in their late thirties or early to mid-forties. Many are younger, twenty-somethings. At 72, Steve says he hopes to play “until I’m dead, or very nearly there.”

Jimmy and Carol, Steve and Gigi ended their four-person team and league play at the end of the 2008, perhaps it was 2009. It was their final sand-court season at a tavern in the commercial heart of Milwaukee’s “River West” neighborhood. That team experience ended for varied reasons, but they all still talk about their “seasons in the sun,” their championships on sand.

Gigi and Steve haven’t given up the sport, not by any stretch, but found, not another league, rather a “co-ed volleyball recreation program” for adults. The program is sponsored by the a suburban recreation department, an adjunct of the community’s school district. Gigi, Steve and Carol are, as far as they know, the only three active players among their original cadre of fellow volleyball devotees. As with heavy sweaters on a warming spring day, they shrug off the admonitions of those who suggest, “You’re all nuts for continuing to play league volleyball at your age.”

Each reply to those who question their sanity is usually remarkably similar: “If I feel good, if my body responds to the physical demands of volleyball, why should I quit playing? If I’m still able to compete with the younger players, there’s no reason to quit. I’ll play until I’m physically unable to receive and pass, set, dig a hard-hit kill attempt and hit the ball with some authority over the net… ”

Many — the truly seasoned players who are also avid spectators — understand the game’s finer points, such as the basic 4-2 serve – receive system or rotation, or the 5-1 rotation normally found in college volleyball. Their current corps of players, however, eschews the more sophisticated systems and concerns itself, with a simplified discussion over whether to play “center up” or “center back,” meaning the court position of the number two player, back row center, and that player’s responsibility for “kills” or well-placed long shots. At Steve’s age, at this juncture in his “volleyball career,” he just wants to play well enough, skillfully enough to give the opposition a competitive contest.

On his 70th birthday, he played in his usual Monday night volleyball session. Many fellow players noted that Gigi executed a spectacular dive to dig the opposition’s kill, Carol hit the floor with a dig and a roll. Both regained their feet in time for the next play. They’re 68 and 71 respectively. Remarkable! On that very occasion, a group of young spectators witnessed the game. With shocked looks, their hands flew to their faces. “Are you OK? Are you hurt?” Gigi is almost offended by such reactions to her “floor dives.”

“I wouldn’t be playing competitive volleyball if I couldn’t dive for a kill,” she says in response.

As for Steve, he dove, rolled, scored a few kills himself, dug a number of attempted kills, served a few aces and otherwise played a respectable game. His teammates feted Steve with a happy birthday song, a card and, of course, cake, homemade cake, decorated in a volleyball motif. “What a perfect way,” he remarked, “to gain entry through the septuagenarian gate.” Steve has always been rather poetic.

After passing through that gate and playing rigorous volleyball for two solid hours on a Monday evening — a session that begins after 7:45 PM! — he strutted like a proud young rooster out to the high school’s parking lot and into his car for the drive home. But shortly after climbing in, out of sight and earshot of his fellows and driving homeward, he groaned from the aches and pains of the session’s combat, then as soon as he hit the door of his home and was able to wrestle the cap off the bottle, swallowed three ibuprofen! A weekly and quite necessary ritual.

In many ways, volleyball is its own ritual, a kind of religion to those still obsessed, even after 40 years. Through it and their history as avid participants — not only as players but as spectators of college, beach and Olympic volleyball — Steve and Gigi have enjoyed its various stages of evolution, made lasting friendships, reveled in its society and its camaraderie and benefitted enormously from its health-enhancing, vigorous exercise. Quit? Not yet. their new goal, they state emphatically, is to play until Gigi reaches age 70. “After that, who can say? Eighty? Eighty-five? Stay tuned. Maybe we’ll start a blog, perhaps film a documentary,” says Steve. The obsession continues to hold and enthrall, and will, the two insist, “until something unexpected comes along and breaks the spell.”

3 Ways That Team Sports Prepare You For Life

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”.

Creating Space in Youth Sports Practices

The term “creating space” has always had a definitive meaning in sports. Whether it is a shooting guard in basketball working to get off a shot or a wide receiver in football trying to get open or pick up yards after a catch, “creating space” is the term likened to distancing oneself from a defender. In youth sports practices, the term takes on a different meaning. Coaches are frequently handcuffed by the lack of available practice fields, gyms or even ice time. The youth hockey coach must run efficient practices because of the cost of ice time and sometimes he must find a way to coach 12 – 16 kids using less than half the rink. In basketball, court time is also at a premium and coaches sometimes must make do with only one rim and 12 kids. In baseball, especially in areas with seasonal changes like the northeast, the supply of fields cannot keep up with coaches’ demands. How are coaches supposed to rectify situations like this and run effective practices with limited space?

When I first began coaching youth baseball, I remember showing up at a field to practice and another team had just stepped on the field before us and my coaching staff and I stood there looking at each other. I got the team together and told them sheepishly that practice was canceled. Luckily most of the parents hadn’t left so the kids’ rides were still there. Had I been more prepared and creative, I could have moved the practice from the intended field to any safe alternate, including a much smaller grass field or even a parking lot.

Let’s explore a couple sports and see how coaches can be creative and run efficient practices in even the smallest or oddest of places:

In soccer, some of the best types of drills are dribbling drills. Lou Fratello, a college soccer coach, who helped create a number of soccer videos, insists that players do not need a huge amount of space to polish their skills. A ball control drill called “Push-Pull” is one such drill. In this drill the player pulls the ball back towards himself and controls it with his laces. He then gives the ball a light tap forward. He moves forward with the ball as he controls it. After moving forward, he moves his whole body backward, controlling the ball the same way with his laces. From the description you can see how a team of 15 players can do this drill in a small confined area. Another drill called “Foundation” also can be practiced in a confined area. Foundation is a great footwork drill. Here, a player taps the ball back and forth between his feet. Players should have their heads and knees up when performing all of the basic footwork skills. Foundation, as well as all of the other footwork drills, can be rehearsed in a stationary position, or while moving forwards or backwards. This drill is great for conditioning and better ball control. The whole team can do this drill in a small area.

In basketball, coaches can integrate a number of ball handling drills involving the whole team. Stationary drills such as passing the ball around the body starting with the neck then moving down the body, to the waist and then each leg is a favorite of players. The “Ball Switch” drill is also popular and builds up hand quickness. In this quick ball handling drill, the player will hold the ball between his legs, one hand in front and one hand in back. The player will then switch hands, moving both hands simultaneously going from in front to behind and vice-versa without letting the ball touch the ground. When a young or inexperienced player starts, if he can’t do this drill right away, he can bounce the ball, then switch hands with the front hand going in back and the back hand going in front and catching the ball after one bounce. The benefit of this drill is that it enhances a player’s coordination and develops quick hands. The player can challenge himself and see how fast he can do this. Again the whole team can do this drill in a small confined area.

Baseball may be the most challenging sport to practice in a small space, though it can be done. Of course you can’t swat long fly balls but you can practice running drills, like bouncing off a base after the pitch crosses home plate. Instead of a single line you can use three lines and only need 20-25 feet of space. You can use drop down rubber bases, use chalk or even gloves as bases. The assistant coach can simulate the opposing pitcher and the manager instructs the baserunners to do one of three things: bounce off the base, steal, or execute a delayed steal on the throw back to the pitcher. Teams can still practice hitting drills but they need to use the right type of ball. Some options include a wiffleball, plastic pickle ball or even a rag ball, which is simply a rag with two inch masking tape wrapped around it until the rag is almost entirely covered. A game of “One Pitch” can often be both fun and effective. This involves dividing the team in half and has two simple rules. First, players have to swing at whatever pitch they get. Second, the outcomes are that either the player hits a homerun or, if he doesn’t hit a homerun, he is out. Each team sends all players up to bat and whoever has more homeruns at the end is the winner.

These are examples of optimizing limited space when challenged with less than optimal surroundings. Coaches need to make up two lists of drills at the beginning of the season. One list will have drills that are used on the regular field and the other list will have alternate drills for either a parking lot or a smaller practice area. And coaches need to map out the props they will need and keep these in their trunk. Youth sports practice time is valuable because coaches can actually teach the sport and have the kids learn from their mistakes. Don’t let limited space change your practice plans. Be creative and create space!

Exercise and Swiss Ball Workouts

For those of you who are not familiar with the name, a Swiss Ball is a large plastic exercise ball that is used for a variety of fitness workouts. They are generally preferred by people who are looking to put strengthen their core muscles while improving their balance.

Let’s clear something up. You may also be familiar with gym balls, sports balls, fitness balls, therapy balls, yoga balls or body balls. These are all different names for these exercise balls and just go to show how many different types of workout you can use them with.

The main advantage of the exercise ball, and the reason so many different types of workout can be used with them, is that they can provide instability and a loss of balance to a huge number of simple exercises. Imagine a very simple exercise on a hard surface or mat. Now imagine doing them while sitting or leaning on an exercise ball. You will constantly have to maintain your balance and make small adjustments to your position. This utilises a host of smaller and less utilised muscles that usually never get any exercise at all. Over time these muscles will get a lot stronger and you will notice real improvements in strength.

Exercise balls are used a lot as parts of therapy programs and to treat lower back pains, precisely for this reason. They can help you to develop better control and strength in your back and stomach. They can also increase you flexibility and back mobility so that if you find it difficult to move sometimes, they can be of great help in your exercise routines. You should also notice increased strength in your abdominal muscles. This is part of the reason that the balls are becoming so popular with women. As more and more women are working on their stomachs, they are switching to any type of routine that will improve their results in this single area.

If you fancy a very simple exercise, then you can even use a Swiss ball instead of a chair. Because the ball is constantly moving, it forces you to engage some back and abdominal muscles constantly so that you are not just sitting there, but are getting a good workout while you do it.

Sporting Goods to Enhance and Develop a Player’s Performance

Sporting goods are the most important thing when going for a game. Without it, one will not be able to play at all or not play properly up to the mark. If a player is properly equipped with sporting goods he or she will have the peace of mind while playing the game. If a game is a war, then the player is a warrior and the goods he or she uses to play will be his or her weapon. So it is understandable the importance of the sports good in a players life. And these goods are needed by people who just play for fun and are not professional players.

Why are these goods necessary?

These goods are necessary in order to play the game smoothly without having to worry much. Different sports have different sporting goods for the players. These goods help a player to perform well by supplying him with the necessary push. For example, a footballer needs to have football cleats in order to not slip on the field while running and they would also need a football to play the game.

Various goods for Various Games

Every game is different and needs different goods in order to play that game. Below are few of the examples of such goods.

· If a person is a weight lifter then he would need weight-lifting gloves and belt for support.

· If one plays games like football, tennis, basketball, volleyball then they would need the respective balls for the respective games to play.

· For hockey, a player would need hockey sticks to play the game.

· In cricket other than the ball a player would need to have a bat, pads, abdominal guard, helmet, gloves.

· Football and hockey, in both these games other than the ball players, would also need shin guards. The football goalkeeper would have goalkeeping gloves. And the hockey goalkeeper would need a helmet, hockey pads, and gloves.

These are just examples of the various Sporting Goods which would be needed by the players. Many more different games exist in the world and to play every game one would need some kind of equipment to play the game.

Quality of Sporting Goods

Every person uses a different quality of goods. It depends on the player with which product he or she is most comfortable with. A lot depends on the comfort and pricing too. Goods used by the professional players are always of high quality and most of the players get customized goods be it cleats or anything else. The goods used by the rest of the people depends solely on them Sometimes it has been seen that a person is very comfortable using a lower quality product than a good one as this maybe because he or she is used to that. From balls to pads and guards, can be found in various quality. The more a person pays the higher quality goods he is going to receive.

Online Availability of Goods

A wide selection of goods can be found at different outlets. But people generally order these now sitting at home because most are busy with work, family or friends. Online ordering in bulk or just a few pieces is priced cheaper. The best part about ordering online is that it will be delivered to the doorstep within the time the customer specified.

Though it is in the player’s capability of playing good, it has been found that the sporting equipment help in enhancing the performance of the player and also helps in developing the player’s game. So these goods are very important for the players.

Let’s Know More About Our National Sport

We have always been quite keen about sports like football, basketball, lawn tennis and of course, cricket. Who doesn’t like cricket? We all do and we follow it religiously whether it is 20-20 or world cup! But did we ever try to discover about our national sport, hockey? I am sure we all are aware of the fact that hockey is our national sport but our duty doesn’t end there. There are still a lot of people specially the new generation who is clueless about this sport and how it is actually played. It is high time we start exploring this game after all it is our national sport and we shouldn’t ignore it.

How to play hockey?

In this game, two teams are divided which plays against each other. Each team has to carefully move the ball into the opponent’s goal with the help of a hockey stick.

• Keep yourself ready with hockey equipment. Buy a beginner stick which comes up to your waist so that you can learn and play comfortably.

• You need to keep in mind that while playing hockey, your left hand will give the main guidance to the stick and your right hand will be the main support to the stick.

• Your left foot should be pointing at the front while the rest foot should be put back for support. You will have to bend your knees in order to aim for the ball.

• Now all you will have to do is, ‘trap the ball’. Here, try to stop or slow down the pace of the ball which is coming towards you.

• It is now time to hit the ball and for that you will have to make sure that your right hand is very close to your left hand so that the ball is in direct contact with your forward foot.

• Try and bounce the ball along the length of the stick. Try to work on the pulls and turns with the help of any of your team member.

In the end, the more you will practice it, the perfect you will become in this game. Once you will learn it, you will not look forward to any other sport. All sports are interesting and fun without any doubt but as an Indian we shouldn’t ignore our national sport and should be equally excited and keen in learning and practicing it. It is one of the important things to remember.

Clear Bowling Balls – Personalized and Attractive

A bowling ball is that ball which is used in a ten pins bowling. These balls usually have three holes in them, one each for the middle finger, the ring finger and the thumb. The bowling balls can be made up of hard wood, plastic or resin. In general, the bowling balls are colored; they may have just a single flat color, or a design containing multiple colors. But there are balls available, which are transparent, but painted in such a way that there appears to be an object kept inside. These are known as clear bowling balls.

The clear bowling balls look magnificent and unique, as their outer cover is made up of transparent plastic, and can be fabricated using different means. One way is to paint its inner sides so as to look like a specific object. Most commonly used ones are skulls, professional logos, can be made to look like other sports balls like the basketball or the tennis ball, or may even contain funny designs or superheroes if they are meant for the kids or beginners. These inner painted balls have no cores, so they are not suitable for spinning the ball.

Cores play an important role in any ten pins game. The balls are made so that it has a core, which is either deformed on a side, or not in the centre making its centre of mass destabilized. This creates an imbalance, thus making the cores make each ball roll and move, as they tend to turn in that directions trying to stabilize its core, making it spin. As normal clear bowling balls have no core, a different version of them actually keeps the object inside, this behaves like the core. And the different shaped object used inside allows each ball to behave differently.

If you are a professional bowler, you should choose the balls with a core rather than the ones that are inner painted, which are mainly used to let others see how interesting it looks. Those balls use different shapes on cores, which can be cylindrical or cubical, and needs to be personalized with a particular design, as all designs don’t look equally good on a specific core shape. So choosing the core and designs are most important.

Clear bowling balls are not only preferred for their attractiveness, but different cores can be used, thus allowing experiments on how different core actually works. Moreover, these balls can be cleaned easily due to its plastic covering, making it one of the prefect balls that are widely used.

What Can A Fitness Ball Do For Me?

The Fitness ball is becoming more recognizable in the world of health and exercise.The truth is that many people still do not know how to use them or understand the benefits of using one. There are a variety of ways they can be used.

Made from a plastic that is soft, filled with air and puncture resistant. These balls was developed in Italy in 1963 and has slowly made its way from there to Switzerland to the United States because its benefits in physical therapy were recognized. Your height will determine what size ball you need. They range from 35 to 85 cm.

Also known as a balance or stability balls, birth, body balls, gym or gymnastic balls, physio balls, pezzi, sports balls, Swiss or Swedish balls and yoga or pilates balls. Workout balls are most commonly seen being used in physical therapy, athletic training, exercises and even weight training.

The core muscles of the body are the main focus with fitness balls. Core muscle groups include the abdomen and back, also referred to as the powerhouse of the body. The stronger your core is the stronger the rest of your body can be.

By forcing the body to respond to the instability of the balls and engaging these core or powerhouse muscles helps improve posture and keeps the focus of the workout on these groups of muscles. This gets a better workout and better results than traditional crunches. It is also considered a low impact exercise.

Women, midwives and doctors are always looking for ways to make the birthing process a little less stress filled and painful. Because of this, these workout balls has been making more appearances in the labor and delivery room. It provides a more natural process of birth by putting the woman into an upright position. This helps with the descent of the fetal head into the pelvis. Rocking of the hips during contractions may help to raise the comfort level. Still always be sure to have your birthing partner present to help you maintain your balance.

With the fitness ball having so many benefits and becoming more widely used, it is easy to find and are also inexpensive. This allows more and more people to partake in using such a versatile tool. Always make sure that you are not stressing or pushing your body. As with any workout or product injuries can occur if not used properly.

Stability Balls

The stability ball goes by many names such as the balance ball, Swiss ball, exercise ball, physio ball, therapy ball, sport ball and more.

This piece of equipment has to be one of the greatest fitness inventions ever. It can benefit any fitness level and goal from rehabilitative therapy to athletic training.

The ball works wonders because of the instability that balancing on a round surface causes. While performing exercises on the ball you need to stay balanced. This recruits core and smaller, stabilizing muscles in to action. The result is more muscles worked, improved balance and a stronger core.

The ball is especially useful for home gyms with limited space. In many cases the ball can substitute as an weight bench.

Some of the many exercises that can be performed on the ball include:

Squats with the ball against the wall

When you position the ball in to your lower back and do squats against a wall with your feet more narrow you have the support to perform squats with a greater range of motion. (ROM) This is difficult for most people due to inflexibility in the hips and hamstrings.

Bench Press, Incline Press, Flyes, Dumbbell Rows

It’s hard to properly work the chest and back when you don’t have a weight bench at home. The stability ball can be used as a weight bench in many cases. You just need to reduce the weight slightly to counter the instability of the ball.

Dips

To start, place the ball up against a wall and do your tricep dips as if the ball were a bench. This is especially beneficial if you can do more than 15 body weight dips off of a bench. When your balance improves, move the ball away from the wall for an extra challenge

Floor Exercises

The stability ball can be used to work out any muscle group without weights. Push ups with either hands on or feet, leg curls by pulling the ball toward your butt while laying on your back. Not to mention yoga and pilates postures stretches and back extensions and balance exercises. The possibilities are endless!

Abs

The stability ball is best known for ab exercises. It’s usually what people try first. Even a basic crunch works your core in new and different ways. Most notably, you can feel the crunch in the lower portion of your core even more. There are literally hundreds of ways to challenge your abs on the stability ball. It’s a lot more comfortable then the floor too!

Lifestyle

The stability ball can be used as a chair for the office or while watching TV. The ball forces you to sit up and significantly improves your posture. Remember that a proper upright posture makes you look taller and more confident!

The stability ball is affordable, portable and comes in various sizes to accommodate any height. I highly recommend the stability ball to anyone that wants to get in to great shape.

Peak Performance in Sports

In the sports arena, peak performance in sports has always been a much sought after state by players and coaches of all levels. Whether the athletes are school boys soccer players or Olympians striving for their Gold medals, peak performance in sports has always attracted athletes and coaches alike. In our modern age of sports, where sports science is at a stratospheric level and rising, what are the factors that when applied correctly can lead sports participants to peak performance in sports? Are there secrets to sporting excellence? Are these factors easily manipulated for the benefits of the athletes? This article discusses the factors that can lead athletes and coaches to peak performance in sports.

There has been many articles and books detailing principles, programs, success factors and the like that can lead to peak performance in sports. Many authors have written at length about them and in many ways, the principles and factors are universal. The principles of progressive resistance, variety, goal specific training, recovery, etc are all undisputed underlying reasons that allows athletes to achieve peak performance in sports. This article goes a step further by exploring these universal factors in a different light. In the process, I hope to give athletes and coaches alike how to practically apply these principles and which are the factors with higher weightage in terms of achieving success and peak performance in sports.

There are basically two set of factors we need to look into. Technical and human factors. Let us take a look at the former set of factors first;

Technical Factors

1. Quality Preparation
2. Mastering Individual Skills
3. High Fitness Levels
4. Understanding Overall Team Play
5. Filling Up Key Positions of the Team
6. Minimise Errors in Games

1. Quality Preparation

The hard work for any sports season begins with the preseason training which is very intensive. No body likes this season, as the work and training required is often very boring and painful. But this has to be done for the athletes to be optimally prepared for the rigours of the competitive phase. The endurance, strength, speed and skill volumes must be done. Not just the volume of work, but how much quality is put into the preparation phase is vital as well. When players cut corners and put in training at face value without their heart and soul, it will show up later in the competition as fatigue, injuries or lack of sharpness in their performance. Peak performance in sports cannot be possible under such circumstances. The quality of preseason preparation is even more important in youth sports.

Very often in schools, the playing seasons for many sports start almost immediately when the school year starts. With our children away for long vacations, our athletes very often return to school to face competitions with very little training time. Team play, fitness building and mental preparation are supposed to be done in 2-3 weeks, which in a sports world is almost impossible and impractical. This kind of preparation is also detrimental to the development of our children. Under these circumstances, coaches and teachers (and parents if possible) have a very important responsibility to ensure that our athletes are well prepared for competition. Training programmes for sports ought to be drawn up and implemented at year’s end previously. Our athletes need to understand that that their season effectively began when their examinations are over. With a training programme started, coaches and teachers can than instruct athletes about a vacation training programme as well. Each athlete should have one whereby, they can do something to improve their playing abilities during their break away from school. It could include things like maintain a certain standard of fitness through endurance activities like cycling, running or swimming, playing catch and pitching in the backyard with their siblings, or even individual practices to improve certain skills. The main thing here is to preserve and improve what has been attained in the preceding season, so that athletes do not return back to school and start from scratch. Simply planning and training this way will ensure quality preparation for the sports teams to attain peak performance in sports later.

2. Mastering Individual Skills

In all sports and games, there are certain skill sets and skills that are considered basic and necessary. These must be achieved by athletes before they can play at a higher level later. In basketball, dribbling and executing a proper lay-up are crucial. Throwing, catching and fielding skills are a must in baseball and softball. The push-pass and receiving a pass are necessary skills in hockey and floor ball. The list goes on. In preseason training, or at the earliest playing stage, these essential skills must be made known to our young players, and all efforts and time must be spent on mastering these basic skills. Without these skills, a coach will find it very difficult to execute more complex team plays to achieve peak performance in sports. If strikers cannot even control a long pass from a teammate, how can we expect the same player to hold up the ball well up field against oppositions defenders and execute lay-off passed to oncoming teammates in support. It will be wise for coaches to develop these skills early and also for players to keep improving themselves in these skills even though they might feel that they are good enough already.

Even at professional levels, these basic skills for their sports is important for peak performance in sports. The repertoire of skills required and the intensity of how these skills are performed at the highest levels are even more acute. At the highest levels where opponents are very evenly match in all areas, one mistake can often result in a win or loss. It is even more important for professionals to master all the skills required of the game or sports. Only under such intense conditions can peak performance in sports be possible.

3. High Fitness Levels

At high school levels, many athletes would not have reached their maximal physical development yet no matter how much they train. Physiologically speaking, the development in this area in youths is very varied. Some children reach a high fitness standard faster than others, while others have body types that will only respond to training optimally when they get older. Hence, it can be assumed that a team with the fittest group of players will have the most advantage. No matter how skillful your opponents are, if you are fitter than him or her, you will be able to overcome your lack of fitness by reacting rapidly to overcome your short fall. Let’s say, you are out dribbled by a more skillful opponent in soccer. But if you are fitter than your opponent who have just out-dribbled you, you will be able to track back fast enough to cover your position again. This edge in fitness for youth is very important at the later stages of the game too, as players tend to tire faster at this age. A fitter team will definitely be able to prevail and score more later in the game. Players at this age need to be convinced of this need for fitness, and be encouraged to do whatever they can to attain the highest level of fitness possible.

How about professionals? Without a doubt, professional athletes are expected to possess fitness at the highest levels. If they are not, their opponents will be and consequently, they will outperform them and reach their peak performance in sports. Generally speaking, professional sportsmen know how to get into great shape and maintain that till the end of the season. Their physical bodies are also in the best state to be developed to their fullest potential.

4. Understanding Overall Team Play

The next factor of great importance in achieving peak performance in sports is understanding the overall team play by the players. Imagine a coach telling his charges to clear the balls down the flanks in any invasion game. You will be surprise how many players actually understand why they are told to do this. More often than not, the players will just do what is required or told by the coaches. The understanding behind their action is very often very little. They might not know that by playing the ball down the flanks or wing, it actually forces the opponents defence to spread wider, thus leaving more gaps in the middle for the attacker to exploit subsequently. Another statistically advantage is that plays down the flanks generally result in the attacker getting the ball back if it is knocked out of bound. That is why, you often hear players or coaches shouting to their charges to ‘throw it down the line’. Young players love the direct route to goal and very often that means playing through the middle. Whatever is taught in tactics to the players, coaches must make every effort to explain and make sure that all the players understand the tactical significance of their plays. This form of coaching if done properly, makes the players better players and improve their decision making on the pitch. And we are always looking for more thinking players in our pitch which will give the team a higher chance of achieving peak performance in sports.

5. Filling Up Key Positions of the Team

The fifth factor that can produce peak performance in sports is actually finding the right players to fill up the most key positions of the team first. In any sport teams, there will be key positions that must be filled first. The point guard in a basketball team is the driver of the team. he controls all plays. A centre in ice-hockey is pivot in both defense and attack, hence he must be the best and fittest and most abled player. The catcher in baseball is the key man, as he dictates and calls the pitches, and also sees the entire fielding situation. These key positions must be filled first, even if it means fielding someone out of position. I use to have a very talented and strong striker who loves to score goals. Unfortunately, I also have a big gap in goal-keeping and he happens to be the best handler of balls in the team. After much persuasion and sacrifice, he finally converted to a goal-keeper. Thanks to his selfless act, the team did extremely well as very few goals were scored against us. It was not easy to make this move. But as the coach than, I felt that the goal-keeper is too important a player to let any Tom, Dick or Harry player, hence it must be the best. These result was the least number of silly errors from our goal-keeping department and that gave the team a much better chance to win games.This brings us to the last technical factor that influence peak performance in sports – making fewest errors.

6. Minimise Errors in Games

In sports these days, errors often decide the outcome of the game. Errors will be more plentiful at youth and children levels. The fact that children are playing at lower technical and tactical levels makes it inevitable that errors will be made. The team that makes the fewest errors in any game will generally perform at their peak. Its a mentality that must be drilled into players to make the fewest error individually as well as as a team. If you do not believe this, watch your next game with a watchful eye over how goals or points are scored. More often than not, you will realize that a goal started from an error from the opponents somewhere. Or a point or run is a result of some players fumbling the ball. Making many silly errors will not lead a team to peak performance in sports. A team that is doing well makes the fewest errors. So coaches, make sure you train your players to understand this and do the right things in the game. Show them evidence through videos or live games, and they will be convinced that the team with the fewest errors win games and peak in their sports performance.

So far we have discussed the technical factors that will lead your team to peak performance in sports. Coaches and players must make sure that these factors are well looked into to ensure that your teams will attain peak performance in sports. Otherwise, it will be a waste of effort and time no matter how talented the team and players are.

In trying to achieve peak performance in sports, human factors are also very important. Understand and master these factors, and success and peak performance in sports is almost a sure thing. But very often these factors are often the hardest to achieved. Here we are drawing on the qualities of human beings to excel in different areas in order for them to reach their peak performance in sports. Very often, these qualities form the foundation of all athletic performances in sports. The players and coaches will find mastering these factors most difficult because we are dealing with intangible elements of human nature. Its easy to improve on your pitching skills, but to improve team spirit it has a lot more to do with just practicing a skill.

Fortunately, we only need to focus on two human factors here in order to achieve peak performance in sports.

Human Factors

1. Players’ Dedication and Commitment 2. Team Work and Team Spirit

The first factor deals with having dedicated and committed players. This is very much an individual player factor, but it is also the coach’s responsibility to reap the highest commitment and dedication from each player. We all know that every player is different, hence it requires different strategies to motivate different players. For some players, simply setting goals, both team and individual goals, will suffice because maybe the players themselves are already intrinsically motivated. For players with poor motivation and a star attitude, some form of carrot and stick methods might be required to get the most out of them. Whatever the strategies, failure to get the highest commitment and dedication from players will mean that training and match play will not be optimum thus resulting in poorer peak performance in sports.

The second human factor that leads to peak performance in sports is team work and team spirit. When a team is able to work together to a level whereby players’ understanding is so good, than the team will have reach the ultimate potential. Not just will tactical plays be good all round, but the effort to play for each other in the team will be so high that the level of satisfaction and sacrifice will be so immense that team play will improve. Players are willing to run and cover for each other more, and there is almost a magical factor in the team play. Team effectiveness will improve. Players will not be playing for selfish reasons but rather for the common team goals. History provides wonderful elements for us to see team work in action. Very often, it was not teams with the most skills that won the competitions, but rather, the teams with the greatest team spirit and team work, When players are willing to set aside personal differences to play for greater team goals. In Euro 2004, Greece was not the team with the greatest fair or skills,but they still won, because the coach was able to mold a team of seemingly nobody into a cohesive unit that was willing to play hard for each other.

Training and reaching peak performance in sports is very often the dreams and aspirations of many coaches and players. At all levels of sports, from high school to professional, all athletes and their coaches want to achieve their peak performance in sports. It is a inner desire of human to succeed and be the best. Being the best requires not just skill, but also certain technical and human factors that can be manipulated for the benefits of achieving peak performance in sports. These factors are important for any sports fans striving for peak performance in sports.

Jimmy Tong has been a Physical Educator for 13 Years in Singapore, with degree in sports science and physical education from Loughborough University in UK. He has extensive coaching experience in soccer, floorball and rugby teams in Singapore Schools.He is currently a sports development officer in Singapore schools as well as an active contributor of sports training articles to improve sports performance in athletes. He hopes to enable people’s success to come by inspiring them with true sports motivational and inspirational stories.