March 14, 2014

Often I feel as though I am learning more than I am teaching in my first year as an Assistant Volleyball Coach at SVSU. And that is entirely okay with me. Like my daddy always said, “You don’t know everything. You don’t have it all figured out.” I am open, humble and in wonder, as best as I am able, as much as I am able.

We are currently in our spring season, which essentially functions as an additional season to the championship season in the fall – but with less competitions and more training. Spring season, as a player and now as a coach, is my favorite season. Because we get time to take a step back, get some perspective and focus on the process. Physically, technically and mentally, we get to strengthen our strengths and address our weaknesses.

Our kryptonite in the fall season was not anything physical – it was mental. Confidence, toughness, decision-making in pressure situations, resilience. So we have, as a staff, been implementing more mental work this spring than I ever experienced in my four years as a student-athlete at NMU. I did visualizing, meditation, et al. independently, but not as part of a team. And I wish so desperately that we would have. Not just for performance but for personal enjoyment, team unity, stress-management. Performance and results are simple by-products of a positive, focused, relaxed, prepared mindset.

Long interested in the psychology behind playing sports (and living as a human), I have been engaging with some content and ideas that have set me on fire. In a good way. These ideas are neither original nor groundbreaking. They are simple, meaningful and lasting. And I want to start putting them down in word, in a collection. And so I begin.

“Be honest and unmerciful,” Lester Bangs says to William Miller, in Almost Famous. An impressionable, aspiring, young journalist, taking advice from a washed up, cynical, jaded writer. But he might have given him one of the best possible piece of wisdom I have ever known (at least so far in my life).

Be honest. Tell it like it is. Call it by it’s name.
And unmerciful. Don’t gloss over the ugly. Bare all. Talk about what hurts.

Two-fold implications with this one:

1. First and foremost, be honest with yourself. I spent a year committing myself to this ends. But I have since realized that honesty is a means and there is no ends outside of trying to live a life as true as possible to what you believe is right, just, good, pure, joyous. Nothing matters more than being honest with yourself in this pursuit of self-actualization. Because if I’m not brutally clear with myself about where I am now, how am I supposed to go anywhere, do anything, be more, be better in my future life? I believe this is fundamental to living in the present. Tell it like it is – as best as we can understand it. Call it by its name – as best as we know how.

2. Be honest with the people you trust. Because as your truth spreads, it gains power and resilience and perspective. We need not suffer or struggle singly, silently. We need not carry that weight alone. Sometimes our truths are so overwhelming, so overblown, so heavy that only when we share them can we begin to address them. And sometimes, to even admit their existence within us. A chemical change happens in our brains when we give voice to our struggles and fears. We begin to own them, to control them, to manage them, to overcome them.

Simple truths. Be honest and unmerciful.




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