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Mental and psychological characteristics of a player

In this part we intend to talk about mental and psychological characteristics that a volleyball player should have in order to achieve his/her maximum preparation and potential. We believe the first issue is the desire and passion to learn or having growth mindset.

Players should be hunger to growth and improve with continues learning, working hard with maximum effort and don’t afraid or shame to mistake. Mistakes are important parts of improvement. This is also the job of the coach to create positive and supportive atmosphere among the team and players.


The coach should remind players that they are like a tree and these are the root of the tree; E.L.M:

Effort: always do your 100% effort, not even 99% to the things right.

Learning: continues learning to do the right things and stay in the road of excellence.

Mistakes: don’t allow fear to mistake prevents your progress. Mistakes are ok and they are important part of growth process.

In order to be effective player or coach we must consider our roots, without strong root we will not be fruitful and afterward we will dry. So we should keep in our mind this method to stay alive and effective.

FIGURE 4.3 E.L.M Method


As coaches, we should motivate them to be greedy learner. Motivation is the motor of the improvement. Having clear goals makes players to be motivated. Goals also should be specific, measurable and reachable. For example, suppose we want to motivate a player in terms of physical fitness. We can tell him/her your jump height is (for example) 65Cm but to have a good performance in high level competition you need to jump 80Cm and be able to implement your attacks from height of 340Cm. You should increase your jump height up to 80Cm step by step. And then we ask him/her: “how do you think?” by using this strategy to ask question we will involve the player in process and his/her commitment to the goal will increase and in this way we will set a specific goal for him/her in physical elements. Also we and player together must set technical, tactical and mental and moral goals and write them on the specific papers in our notebook that belong to this player.  We should also set time limit to achieve the goal. For example, we will tell him/her you need to do this exercises for 6 weeks to achieve this goal.

When the player has a goal, his/her motivation increases and he/she will make all his/her efforts to achieve that goal and avoid doing things that will keep him/her away from achieving the goal.

The next point in motivation is the coach supporting. Coaches must give their players positive, supportive and constructive feedback to help them path the growth way better, especially when they face problems or obstacles.

The coach also should give responsibility to his/her players. The players should feel that they are important members of the team and team needs them. For this purpose, they should have a distinct and challenging role. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they should play the whole game but means they should accept their roles in training and the game. They should accept this current role but it is not necessary to be satisfied, they must work hard to improve and try to do their best about it. These are points which make them to continue more motivated and with hunger and focus on their duties more. This focus will help them to growth and achieve their goals.

The next issue is that the players in passing this path will confront with obstacles and difficulties. So they should be grit. The word grit means to be sustained and have persistence to achieve the goal. If they confront the problems, they shouldn’t give up and make an excuse but they must be tougher and smarter looking for a solution to achieve the goal. To be able to always try hard, to do our best and to be finisher are features that we should develop in our players.

The next key to achieve the success is to learn from success of others. Pay attention what successful people have done and follow them as models. Make those effective behaviors your habits and try to do them in the best way. If you are criticized, accept those criticisms. Don’t resist against them but think how you can use these criticisms and how you can learn from your mistakes to grow. If you cultivate this perspective, you will no longer be afraid of making mistakes.

We know very well that one of the reasons for not progressing is the fear of making mistakes. So we should educate smart and brave players who the fear of making mistakes will never halt them learning and progressing. So as coaches we must pay attention to our reactions after player’s mistakes. Our reactions and feedbacks should be positive and constructive and give them confidence and courage to continue improving.  Often catch them when they do something correct or good and seldom catch them when they do mistake.

If we want to talk about the unique mental and psychological characteristics of volleyball players, we must first mention the continuity of excellent performance. Their performance should always be in a standard and growing range. They should also be able to maintain their quality entirely within all exercise and competition stages. This consistency must be reflected not only in techniques or matches but in players’ talking, behavior and discipline and so on. Since volleyball is a sport in which many points are exchanged (for example a 5-set match may end up with totally points 103 versus 97), players must have excellent performance in all rallies. So consistency and continuity of excellent performance is a very important trait that we must develop within our players.

Avoiding emotionalism (Avoiding excessive happiness or excessive sadness after a rally) is one of the important characteristics that players should cultivate within themselves and the coach should also pay attention to it very much. On the other hand, the player must be mentally stable. This mental stability helps him/her to have consistency in his/her performance. As coaches, we can give our players some exercises to strengthen them to be consistent in performance. For example, when we practice reception and a player is supposed to have 6 good and excellent (+ and #) receptions out of 10, we can force him/her to have 6 good receptions in a row, otherwise he/she is not qualified to pass the exercise and start the next exercise and should start 10 receptions again.

The next issue we want to talk about is refocusing. As we explained having concentration is a very important skill. Nevertheless, we can see that sometimes some players have concentration but they loss their focus after the slightest fault or mistake. If the players desire to have good performance and consistency throughout the competition, they should be able to retrieve their focus and have mental recovery. “The power of again” is an important skill that we must develop within our players.

We must teach them how to return into the game and their good performance. Self-talk plays a key role in this context. What the players say to themselves is important. Some of them become their own worst enemy, however some others their own best friend, give themselves energy and talk constructively: for example, my fault was that I wasn’t ready; I need to focus on that key point; I am going to make it; everything is going to be ok by my efforts; I can have better performance in the next rally; and so on. In addition to self-talk, they shouldn’t worry about what the coach, reporters or spectators will say about their performance.

In volleyball, ball is only in play for about 20 percent of the total playing time and in the remaining 80 percent, players are talking to themselves (self-talk) or they are giving their teammates energy. Therefore, we should create positive communicative atmosphere within the team in such a way that teammates support each other after the faults. In this way the team can restore its energy and will be able to continue for a longer time. The communication or support can be verbal or non-verbal. Hence our physical movement and body language is very important. During exercises we need to design drills that develop such mental and psychological characteristics within the team. Suppose in the aforementioned reception drill, a player can have 6 good and excellent (+ and #) receptions in a row in his/her third attempt. How can you use this result for retrieving him/her in a real match? What will you say to him/her when you are 14-14 in the 5th set of knockout stage and he/she fails a reception? During time-out you can remind him/her aforesaid drill and tell him/her as you had made mistakes within drills and eventually succeeded, you can still perform well now. This hint will encourage the player and help him/her to have a positive self-talk and as a result has a better performance.

The other characteristic of volleyball players is memory and analysis power. As we mentioned before, there are many rallies in volleyball and players should have a strong memory. Our players need to remember what the opponent had done at the previous rotation or at their own same previous rotation because they might do the same thing again anyway. They also should remember our tactics that we were supposed to adopt according to the analysis of opponent in some particular rotations. So as coaches, we should train the players to have a strong memory and to pay attention to the game flow through the drills and matches. A good drill could be this: suppose we have two teams (A & B) with 6 players on each side. Both teams execute 3 serves. When team A serves, they should memorize the order and type of first opponent’s (team B) set for each reception and must do the same order and type in its own reception turn. After a while we can increase the number of serve to 5 or 7. This drill helps players to improve their memory, concentration and analysis power.

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