I saw this posted in a coaching group.

We play really well for one set, then we start focusing on mistakes, and it’s all downhill from there.

Really, I should say I’ve seen variations of this idea many, many times. The question that has to immediately come in reaction is “Are you training to deal with errors?” If you aren’t specifically putting player in these kinds of situations in training, and helping them develop the skills to work through them, why would we expect them to be able to work through them in a match?

You might call it mental toughness training. Or maybe you call it mental skills development. Perhaps you like emotional resiliance, or some other term. Regardless, it’s a skill like anything else. To be good at it you have to learn the techniques and practice them.

I’ll leave discussion of mental techniques to the pros (like Dan Abrahams and Dan Mickle). I can, however, speak to creating the right scenarios in practice to work on them. In fact, I already have. Give the How do we make them uncomfortable? post a read. In the first section I discuss the idea of putting players in frustrating situations where they struggle to have high levels of success.

There’s another major factor here. That’s your culture and gym environment around errors. If you encourage players to take chances and don’t harp on their mistakes, it’s a lot easier for them to let things go and move on to the next play. If not, players will fixate on them.

Beware of unintentional contradictions, however. This is something I see quite often where a coach talks about being OK with positive errors, but then acts the opposite way, providing very mixed messaging. For example, I once saw a coach encourage aggressive attacking in practice, but then adopt a “just get it in” approach at times in matches. Definitely contradicting messages there.

6 Steps to Better Practices - Free Guide

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter today and get this free guide to making your practices the best, along with loads more coaching tips and information.

No spam ever. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.