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Volleyball Life Lesson #1 – Always Make Time for Self-Evaluations

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Wednesday evening at volleyball certainly felt like a curse from the sand monsters as they pulled me down into the bowels of Four Lakes. On this day, I hit almost every ball into the net, which is totally uncharacteristic of me. I was not only embarrassed but also found myself losing my confidence as a hitter. It was as if I was afraid to contact the ball for fear of being rejected by the Big Bad Net. What made matters worse was that I was subbing for a team that was relying on me to come through for them, and instead I felt like a burden pulling the team down with me as I sank. What was happening with me?

As a life coach, I am always looking for the good in every situation, and while this initially seemed like a futile effort, I was eventually able to find it. I turned this abysmal experience into a life lesson on the power of self-evaluations. Last summer, I published an article on Linked In on this very topic - The Power of Self-Evaluations – 3 Questions in Self-Mastery | LinkedIn. While my focus at the time of writing this article was work-related, I believe the principles apply to any sphere of our lives. And for me, volleyball is certainly no exception.

In the article, I identify the 3 questions we need to ask at the conclusion of our project or performance: #1. How did I show up? #2. How did I respond to challenges? #3. What can I do (and think) differently the next time? Using this method, I was able to break down my volleyball performance that night.

#1 - How Did I Show Up?

As I reflect back on the games, I was able to gain much insight by asking this question. Having played 6 games the night before at my regular league play, I had showed up with sore legs which severely affected my leaping ability. I also realized that my diet and eating schedule was off track this week. A less than healthy diet of bratwurst and Costco pizza (who can resist $1.99 slices?) had caused me to show up with much less energy to kickstart my already impaired legs. Next, I evaluated by mental preparation. As a sub, I was surrounded by many new faces and did not feel that normal sense of connection with my team while on the court. Instead, I felt disconnected, and that feeling was compounded once I made my first hitting error on the court. So, both physically and mentally, I had put myself at a big disadvantage before even stepping on the court. I was both physically and mentally unprepared. Even energetically, I was feeling sluggish from squeezing in a nap right before the game.

#2 - How Did I Respond to Challenges?

Looking back, I identified external challenges throughout the game, including an intense and constantly changing wind, which caused havoc for all of us. I seemed to adjust well to this external factor, however it was my physical challenges that I struggled most with, and these would ultimately create mental difficulties. After my first mistake, I began to play points against myself and put myself “down one.” After the second error, I was “down two.” This pattern continued and it seemed so hard to get a “personal win.” Although I felt like I was “losing” in the hitting category, which made me want to hit safe shots, I never felt like I wanted to throw in the towel. I stayed present and helped with my defense and going on small serving runs. So, really the small wins that I needed did show up, and would eventually help my team win the match.

#3 - What Can I Do (and Think) Differently the Next Time?

Certainly, the next time I am asked to sub on short rest, I will be more cognizant of my physical condition before committing. In this case, because volleyball is such a physically demanding sport, I might prepare the captain that I do not perform well with less than one day of rest and give them the option to find an alternate player. In the event I am still needed, I could still play. However, I could also use this as an opportunity to connect with my team through dialogue before the game. I might prepare them by letting them know I do not typically play well under these circumstances and mention specifically those areas that I may struggle with (i.e hitting). This will give them some notice and also take some of the self-imposed pressure off of me to carry the team. As I am playing, I can also talk to my team and develop a relationship with them around any pesky errors that pop up during play.

Finally, I can see this as an opportunity to continue to master my own thoughts. I can validate myself by reminding myself that I am not defined by a single performance. I can use this as an opportunity to better prepare myself when I otherwise might not be. I can appreciate every opportunity and work to get myself better in some way, one match at a time.

What is an area of your life where a self-evaluation is needed? Where might a “lessons learned” approach serve you well?

As you apply this same method of self-evaluation in an objective way, recognize that you are taking an important step forward in self-mastery. Self-mastery is not about achieving perfection, rather it is operating at your highest level of consciousness. It is about managing your thoughts when things from the outside are seemingly unmanageable. The more that you can continue to work on yourself though self-evaluations, the more you are stepping into new and higher levels of yourself.

Ryan Walter, ACC, PE

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I am a certified professional life coach and professional engineer and help professionals navigate the human challenges of work. My mission is to help people get unstuck in their personal and professional lives. Some of the areas that I coach people on include work fulfillment, life purpose, work-life balance, personal boundaries, assertiveness, and relational conflict.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of life coaching or would like to see how it works first-hand, please reach out to me to schedule a free consultation. You can also schedule a session in my booking calendar for a time that works for you. Free Consultation Call - ReThink Wildly


Thanks for subbing! We wouldn’t have won without you even if you do think you had a down night. Even though you hit the net a couple times you still had some good digs and sets and contributed to the win. I’ll let you know when we need you again!

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Thanks Jeff! I’m glad you appreciated having me as a sub. I’m always looking for life lessons and volleyball gives me plenty of opportunities to find them. Look out for more articles to follow. See you out on the courts soon!


I'm Leah

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