High School Volleyball Tryouts: Preparing Mentally

By Sheryl Kline Cardiff, M.A.
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It can be devastating to practice and work so hard only to have past and/or future thoughts and worries disrupt what you are capable of. Tryouts, especially very competitive ones, can produce emotions that get in the way of allowing you to perform your best. If you have the Mental Training Skills to manage your mind when it matters the most, you will be able to perform at your highest level possible, throughout the tryout process.

During tryouts, you are going to make errors. You’re human. It is error recovery that will set you aside from the rest. Typically, actions perceived as negative are what we surround with the most emotion (‘I let the ball drop. That makes me so mad’ or ‘I failed to execute my last serve and got asked to sit down’). These emotions are connected to our memory as well as our level of confidence. If we surround errors with lots of negative emotion, our confidence will likely suffer. This can lead to poor performance such as becoming conservative and hesitant. Since negative actions tend to be highly emotional, they are likely to be reinforced into our memory.  This is problematic because they carry over into our future points or drills which makes it difficult to execute the task at hand.

The good news is that you can control how you choose to interpret what happens during tryouts. It is helpful to neutralize negative emotions (ie: I just dumped two serves into the net. Not good but it’s ok.), and then immediately focus on one or two (positive) things to improve your serve (ie: toss straighter and higher). Conversely, when you do something well, think WAHOO! Surround it with lots of emotion, either out loud or to yourself. This will help create a memory of what you did well and contribute to your confidence.

It may not guarantee a spot on the team, but it will help allow the coaches see what kind of player you are.