Positivity: the name of volleyball’s game

Bounce. Thwack. “Yeah, you got it girls.” Those are the sounds of a typical Guilford volleyball practice.

With the number of players on the team lowering drastically from 18 to 10, many said they were apprehensive before the season started.

But their fears quickly diminished as they stepped onto the court together realizing this season’s potential.

“We’re small, but mighty,” said sophomore middle blocker Heather Crawford. “Compared to last year, there were so many of us; this year we get so many more reps in practice that you can just tell a huge difference compared to last year.”

The team’s big focus this season is being unified and playing for each other. All seem to agree that this is where a smaller team comes in handy.

“We’re working to improve for the team, not just personally,” said senior outside hitter Marinda Popp. “It’s a small group and a close community, which is good for team chemistry on the court, so hopefully we’ll do really well.”

Of course, the team is driven by the goal to win, but that is not the only one.

“Enjoy the process,” said head coach Emily Gann. “Enjoy the process of getting to the win. Overall, the goal is to step on the floor and compete and give our all and we believe that if we do that then we will get the wins. So like we said, we’re not focusing so much on the end goal as the short term and the process.”

Coach Gann and new assistant coach Ariel Newman have been implementing strategies for strengthening their team’s morale along with helping their players acquire mental toughness. The new approach involves focusing on positive self-talk, visualization and breathing exercises before games and practices.

  “I’ve kind of been superstitious about it this season because of the days we don’t do it in practice,” said sophomore setter Casey Davis. “We’re just kind of slack and we just don’t have as good of a practice, so I think it really helps us focus.”

Players and coaches alike agree that their new routine has greatly helped them to improve both on and off the court.

“It’s not just about volleyball,” said senior outside hitter and team captain Kelsey Ruehling. “There’s more to it.

“You can take this positive self-image and confidence in yourself out into other aspects of your life, and I think there’s a lot to be gained from it not just on the court, but in life in general.”

Proving that the new strategies are working, volleyball scored their first win of the season in the final game of four at the Averett University Cougar Classic tournament on Sept. 5 and 6.

“This past weekend at Averett, the girls definitely proved to Emily and I that they wouldn’t let their past mistakes as a team get them down,” said assistant coach Ariel Newman. “They just got stronger as the weekend went on.”

The outlook on the rest of the season is resoundingly positive amongst the team. The coaches are confident in the player’s ability to continue improving and the players are eager to do so.  

“We’ve only played five games, but it’s been incredible the amount of improvement that’s happened in those five games in the span of a week or week and a half,” said senior setter Maile Munro. “There’s this different air of positivity that I think we were missing before.”