What is the most important skill in volleyball?

VolleyScience ran a twitter poll recently asking our awesome volleyball community to give us the answer. You responded with loads of feedback and some great discussion. However, amongst the variety of responses one skill came up repeatedly. Mental Toughness.

But what is “Mental Toughness”? How can we see it? Measure it? Develop it?

This article outlines a framework which can be used to answer all of these questions.

Having two young children, I often sit thinking about coaching athletes whilst animated films are on in the background. I’m sure my kids measure my success as a parent based on whether or not I’m able to sing along to the entire Frozen soundtrack… Which I can by the way!

I remember my childhood, when the most complex and challenging emotions I had to face were whilst I struggled to work out what happened to Bambi’s mother. But nowadays I think Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks do a great job subliminally educating our children about the way we should approach life, each other and personal growth. Currently in my mind, no film does this more so than Kung Fu Panda…

For me, this film is built on the conflict between holding a Fixed vs. Growth Mindset. A concept recently popularised and commonly credited to Caroline S. Dweck, based on her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The infographic below gives a great overview of the approach;

This outlines a simple mental approach to life that gives the athlete responsibility and control over their destiny. Promoting ownership of progress AND failure, and fostering resilience in adversity. The cornerstones of Mental Toughness.

For me, Po’s journey of development throughout Kung Fu Panda shows all of the hallmarks of a Growth Mindset. He shows us and our children how to embrace challenge, persist against setbacks, see the link between effort and mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. Leaving his enemy chasing after a blank scroll…

“Success isn’t measured by the number of wins you get, its measured by the number of lives you influence positively.”

In reality, however, the person coaching your children to play volleyball each week spends a tiny amount of time with them. As a parent, you’re their role model, their mentor, their enforcer, their inspiration. And you’re great at it! They reflect the skills and traits you possess and shine as an advert for your awesomeness. They become mentally tough because you are mentally tough.

I support the Kung Fu Panda message, and encourage the people I work with to be like THE big fat panda. I hope this resinates with you too.



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