Physical Fitness in volleyball – Season 1

Competitive Volleyball season 1 – April to August 2017.

Knee

My greatest insight into this first season in my 5 your journey is that I am still physically able to play. I had hoped in the preseason that I would possibly last throughout the entire season, and in writing this I have done that. Not only that, it is not that I feel stronger or have less knee pain, but I have discovered techniques to alleviate and sometimes negate the pain.

In the preseason I simply engaged in a lot of social volleyball games, as well as 1x per week training session. These training sessions were meant for high school / complete beginners to the game so I was able to relearn and fine tune my essentials. During this time my knee pain would flare up occasionally and, since then, have discovered different methods to treat the pain. Initially my remedy was to purchase knee supports, which is why I have 2 Bauerfeind knee sleeves. I additionally invested in highly compressive leggings to further support the key muscle groups in and around my knees. Once I found that my pain was not as intense, but still lingering, I educated myself in foam rolling techniques. At this point in time I have invested in a Hyperice Vyper 2.0 foam roller that has 3 vibration intensities to more effectively loosen my fatigued muscles.

Once I established proper foam rolling methods into my treatment ritual, in order to ensure that I was able to play a competitive volleyball game with minimal pain, I resorted to rubbing heat gel in and around my knees to prep them for game time. During the warm up the gel would activate and assist in keeping that region heated and loose. Occasionally, when the heating gel would not work, I would use kinesiology tape under my knee sleeves for further support. This practice proved invaluable during the Collie Cup tournament where I played volleyball for 2 days, the first day having 5 games. The kinesiology tape was able to further stabilise my knees along with my knee sleeves, while the highly compressive skins tights decreased as much muscle vibration as possible.

Additionally, I established a pregame warm up routine that greatly assisted in warming my lower body and reducing my knee pain. The warm up involves running 2-3 laps around half / full court, followed by half court drills. In the preseason I used to do more elaborate warm ups which I have been unable to do in the season due to time constraints in the warm up phase of  an official game. I will return to doing these warm up exercises in the offseason and increase my efficiency so that I can still perform them during an actual pregame warm up.

Another method that I had developed during the season was to change my mentality during a game. On top of being calm and collected, I also channelled the thought of “air” and “light” in order to translate into being lighter on my feet. This served to make me faster in my response timings, as well as to change the way I exerted force on my muscles and joints. Instead of pounding them into the hard wood to move, with my adjusted mentality I used only as much force as needed to get me into position. This greatly served to reduce my knee pain and actually helped me increase my speed, if not only as a placebo effect.

As previously described in my previous post, my landing mechanics this season declined as compared to the preseason. Although, having a “light” mentality assisted in landing as softly as possible, thus allowing me to actually use the knowledge that I had gained to land properly. For the new season, I am to always have a “light” mentality as well as to further improve my landing mechanics so that I may minimise as much pain as possible.

Thumb

As previously stated, during the beginning of the season I had initially sprained my thumb and did not pay the injury much thought. Unfortunately, this sprain developed into a chronic injury and as a result, I am currently seeking medical attention at this time of writing. Oddly, I only sprain my thumb when I play volleyball because otherwise, it is fully functional. I can still grip properly and use my thumb when I lift weights, but I can not perform a simple set without the possibility of a further sprain.

Throughout the season I used a thumb support during the game and this did not help as much. In retrospect it was probably because of the way I used the straps and how it did not support the area where my thumb had weakened. My only hope for a full recovery is to rest it, as well as perform various thumb exercises to strengthen the muscles, if any are injured.

The last training session I had attended, instead of using a thumb support I wrapped my thumb with sports taping. As a result, I was actually able to gain the mobility and flexibility I had lost with the thumb support, while being pain free. This was only 1 time that I had tried this technique, so I may make use of it more often in the future.

Eczema

I have always had to deal with my hereditary condition of Eczema in various parts of my body. The worse conditions are when it is incredibly dry and cold, as well as constant contact with dirty / drying surfaces. Throughout the season I had noticed that whenever I contacted a particularly dusty / dirty volleyball, my eczema in my right hand would flare up. However, if the ball was relatively clean, I would not exhibit any symptoms of eczema in my hand. In relation to my thumb condition, it seems that the material of the thumb support affect the skin on my right hand, and at the time of writing, I am treating it with mild hydrocortisone cream. It has healed considerably, but not yet fully. My middle 3 fingers have also experienced instances of eczema flares and I have treated them with sports tape and rigorous lotion application.

Fitness

My overall fitness level was gradually increasing in the preseason and towards the middle of the season. I could feel that the pain in my knees was decreasing, as well as my jump vertical increasing as I had less weight to overcome. This was also the time of proving my skills to the club, so I was extremely determined to be as fit and move as fast and functionally as possible to secure a favourable division. Unfortunately, partly due to my increased and varying workload, I dramatically decreased my gym activities in favour of focusing on my volleyball recovery and performance. This was counterintuitive because my performance suffered considerably, and my fitness dramatically decreased. I no longer was as fast and the pain in my knees increased again as I gradually gained weight. At the time of writing I have restarted my gym activities with a different goal, to ensure the health of my active lifestyle. Where I used to dislike cardiovascular exercises, I now take 30 min to simply walk before I engage in any weighted exercises. This ensures that I never get lazy or forget to do my cardio activity after my weighted trainings.

Season 2 and beyond

Now that the first season in my 5 year journey has ended, it was a valuable experience to play again. I have gained immense knowledge in how the organisation, club and league, are handled and I am now more familiar with the volleyball calendar for the year. I can easily reflect and consider this to be an incredibly negative experience, one that would give me reason to not play another season, but I choose to be grateful in still being able to play. To just be able to stand on a court again and to be in an actual competitive volleyball game, this has been a goal I had been working towards in the past 6 months leading up to the season. I am extremely hopeful for the next season as I am going to take this offseason to rest and strengthen myself again. I want to come back stronger and more balanced for any team that I decide to join. My love for the sport has always been in the background, through the small good times and immense bad times, I have loved the sport in all of it. Here is to the second year in my 5 year saga in competitive volleyball.

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Reviewing a rough season in volleyball – Season 1

Motivations

Competitive volleyball season 1 – April to August 2017.

What a wonderful and challenging experience to play competitive volleyball again this season. I am a very passion driven person and most activities I engage in at my highest abilities involve myself being completely passion fuelled. As evidenced with my inactivity in posting throughout the season, it was a season that was not filled with passion. Instead, this season was incredibly educational and informative in how volleyball is conducted in Western Australia and what the players / people are like in the community.

It was like yesterday when I decided to play competitive volleyball again, and throughout this entire season, I have not regretted it. There were times when my faith and passion for the sport wavered for various reasons, but as it ends I find myself incredibly excited and hungry for the next season. When I began the season I was highly focused on my individual abilities and simply played the game based on that. The progress I achieved leading up to the season was immense, I felt and knew that my skill level exponentially increased from when I started playing social volleyball. During trials I consistently put forth my best effort to showcase the skills that I had developed and honed in the preseason. As my position was yet undefined, I was focused on demonstrating all of my skills in hopes of securing a minimum Super League Division 3 placement. This was also the period of time when I had yet fully injured my thumb, and as a result, I was flexible to become a setter because I did not have any difficulties in controlling the ball then. Everything was new, everyone was new and the entire experience fuelled me to continuously do better for myself in the sport I cherished. Even my mentality was still hopeful and optimistic for the performance and team camaraderie that I had envisioned for the season.

Unfortunately, this wave of progression only carried me up until the 5th game of the season as each of the teams began to exhibit signs of complacency and loss of motivation. As each player’s position was likely defined at this point, we then focused on team dynamics. We never left this phase of training. The ongoing excuse throughout the season was that we were a new team representing a new club, so it was expected of us to behave and perform poorly. I still do not accept this as a reason for our poor performance. As captain for the SL3 team and as the main setter I had 2 roles that were opposing each other throughout the middle and end of the season. As the captain I attempted and tried to maintain a sense of “team” within the team and set guiding principles and attitudes that each player should have for a game. Unfortunately, this did not last and my role as captain eventually became the player who handled complaints and raised it up to the coaches. In short, I did not function nor feel like a captain of a team, at least not in comparison to any other leadership role I had in the past. It was as if the team itself did not see the need for a captain, nor did I feel like I could be a competent one due to my role as a player. As a player, I was desperate to improve my individual skill, to be given more personal coaching away from the “helpful” criticism of the team. This only materialised twice. It was as if my coach solely relied on team dynamics and team practice to improve my individual skill as a setter, as if that would have worked out. As a result, I was not confident in my role as a captain because I was not confident in my role as a main setter for the team. I could not fake the confidence needed for the team because my genuine confidence in my own ability was non existent. This severe lack in confidence permeated to other parts of my volleyball life, as evidenced by the complete lack of content in the middle of the season. I had almost lost all of my motivation to improve as no matter what I did, it was never enough.

By the end of the season, my mind was already focused on the offseason and next season. I had effectively given up on the current team as it was incredibly negative and toxic to be a part of. It was not ever exhibited during trainings because there was no pressure to perform, but when it came to game time everyone was incredibly tense and negative. In retrospect I suppose it was due to each individuals inability to handle stress in that highly stressful situation. Each player also exhibited different manners of intensity for the game, some were extremely vocal while others were the silent seething types who would only explode through sheer aura and small comments. This cacophony of mentalities eventually lead to our extreme underperformance and regrettably non existent team atmosphere. Even as I write this now, I do not wish to play in the same team with the same players next season. I may handpick a few, but overall I wish never to competitively play with most of the players. It was an overwhelmingly negative atmosphere that no one knew how to address, even the coaches were confused. In their view, our performance was equal or better than most teams during trainings, but we were never able to translate that to game time. As previously stated, it was the hidden inability of handling pressure as well as adapting in a very negative and judgemental atmosphere. As the setter, this was an absolute nightmare. There were moments where I executed absolutely perfect sets, but these moments were few and far between as I was continuously pressured by the entire team. Even if the ball was a perfect set, if the hitter was unable to execute, it was my fault. Warming up to hit, if I was unable to deliver absolute perfect sets every time, it was my fault. If the feeder to my set gave me a bad feed, it was my fault. Ultimately, it felt as if I was blamed for every loss in the season. Mentally, this destroyed my enjoyment with this team. At least I still relished and enjoyed the game when I was not playing competitively. In retrospect, the only reason why I wanted to play competitively again was to improve upon my skill and to play at a higher level, this was not the case. I did overall improve my setting and I performed a few sets which I would have never been able to practice in a social environment, but ultimately it was not enough to justify this as a successful season based on performance. However, it was a successful season in all other aspects that did not involve my competitive performance. This will be described in further detail in another post.

Skills development – Setting

This section will begin with an examination in my primary role this season, as the main setter for SL3. I would like to consider my experience slightly positive but largely negative, but honestly it was entirely educational, neither positive nor negative. When I began as the main setter, my initial motivations for this position was to ensure that I received the most play time of any player on the court. Essentially I wanted a position that was invaluable to the team, one where I would not be easily substituted off in the middle of the game. I was also highly inspired by Kageyama, one of the two main protagonists in Haikyuu!!. He described the position as the main control tower, guiding and directing the flow of the entire game.

I found this to be true, however I was largely unable to execute as necessary due to consistently failed 1st passes. Additionally, at the beginning of the new season and throughout the season I had sprained my thumb. At first I thought this was a minor injury that would resolve itself quickly, but instead it lasted the entire season and still affects me today. I am unable to play volleyball without spraining my thumb. I am currently seeking medical treatment for my condition and hopefully I can recover before next season. If not, I will probably opt to play Libero instead as I would not be needed to set as much.

In terms of my actual skill and technique, this largely improved throughout the season. The main improvement in my technique was after one of two setter specific coaching sessions, ONE OF TWO, where my coach said that I should visualise grabbing the ball instead of catching. This initially seemed counter intuitive, but it resulted in adjusting my form so that my sets became more consistent. This was the greatest improvement in my skill the entire season, this one coaching direction that changed my technique entirely. Additionally, I was able to consistently set quick hits for my middle positioned players, as well as do other higher level sets with Kai. The greatest difficulty I had, and still have, is in my back setting. This is because of my injured thumb and how it is integrally involved in performing the movement. Instead of using the new technique I learned, I had to return to “catching” the ball and using my thumbs and fingers to push it up and backwards. As a result, my success rate for back sets was abysmal. In regards to my front setting, even in the end I still found that I was unable to fully push the ball out consistently. I was always slightly shorter than required. At times this was fine because the hitters had already adjusted to my inabilities, but other times they aggressively denied it and vocally tried to “help” me. Also, I began to develop a greater awareness of the entire court as a setter. My positioning when setting up for the ball was always dictated by the position of the other players. Largely, when I was unable to set a ball that was passed adequately, it was because I responded to a small shift in the position of the other players. It was never evident but, in retrospect, I did that to avoid collision and injury. This awareness also began, unfortunately only at the very end, to extend to the oppositions court as I started to focus on the match ups between my front row, as well their entire positioning when I went to set. With this developing awareness and the hope of my healing thumb, I am motivated to further develop my skills as a setter.

Overall, my experience as a setter was incredibly educational and if I am able to heal and rehabilitate my thumb condition I may want to do it again, but at this point in time I do not entertain the idea of returning as a setter.

Spiker

As a spiker this season, which only occurred if I was playing in a 6-2 or 5-1 formation, I was adequate. Neither stellar nor under performing, just adequate. This is largely due to my shift in focus at the beginning of the season when I was chosen as the main setter. In the preseason I had begun to improve upon my different shots, as well as my landing mechanics. I was still able to partially maintain these skills, but I did notice that I focused less on my landing mechanics as the season progressed.

In terms of my arm swing, literally at the very end of the season did I view a video that explained what I was doing poorly, and it was never fully using my whole body and extending my arm. In the preseason I had been taught the theory and shown what it meant, but it was not as exaggerated nor emphasised as in the video I viewed at the end. As a result, in this off season I want to develop this technique so that, even if I am unable to jump higher at this point in time, I will at least be able to always hit within the court.

For my landing mechanics, this was exponentially developing in the preseason as I initially endeavoured to be an outside / wing spiker. In this upcoming offseason I will definitely focus more on this as it was integral even as a setter in my block landings.

Passer

This was my least developed skill throughout the season, even though we primarily focused on this in training, literally every training session involved a drill for passing, I was only focused on the setting portion. As a passer, my abilities somewhat developed in the season, more in the preseason, as I began to develop better positioning of my arms in the movement of receiving. I now know to keep my arms close to my body until I am able to set myself and balance before receiving the ball, this is instead of throwing my arms out before I am set in place. I have also learned to minimise my head movement by tracking the ball with my body, forcing me to get into position instead of simply looking at the ball travel to the position.

The greatest skill I developed as a passer in this season was diving and diving safely. In high school I had never dived safely, I always relied on the cushioning of the knee pads. Now, I have educated and practiced the necessary mechanics to execute a safe dive in multiple variations. This is also one of the reasons why I do not mind becoming a libero as I have gotten comfortable with the ground than I have been ever before.

Building tradition and culture in a new volleyball team

 

Captain

Discovering that I was nominated the captain of my division both terrified and excited me. I have taken leadership roles in the past, and some specifically during high school volleyball, but I knew this opportunity was vastly different as all the players, as well as the club, would be new. As a result, I knew I had to be integral in building foundation and tradition for this new team and club, which is what I set out to do.

The first thing that I did was to work on building tradition and culture aspects specific to my division and team, a way to bond the players with concepts that were unique to us. From past leadership opportunities I learned how to establish core values that a team could reflect and rely upon. The core values that I set for my team were Energy, Commitment, Fun and Fury.

Energy

I knew immediately that I wanted Energy to be the first core value as it directly supported every action that each player made in training and in game. With high mental and physical energy, we could break through any negative point streaks or internal struggles that may have occurred.

Commitment

This was to be the second core value as I wanted each player to dedicate themselves for the betterment of the team and their skills. By understanding that each player committed themselves, each would know that no matter what occurs, there is another teammate that is committed to playing better.

Fun

The third core value, this was also integral as each person derives their own sense of “fun” differently. Some are highly focused on competition and always winning, while others just want to be play a high level of volleyball, be it win or lose and that is their fun. However, this needed to be a core value because at the end of the day, if no one on the team is having fun, for whatever reason, then it is more likely that their attitudes and behaviours may influence others and thus a cascade of negativity ensues. This could ultimately result in the breakdown of the team and members leaving for other clubs, or worse, the sport entirely.

Fury

As this is part of the club name, I considered it worked as a value to be intense in any given situation. I do not mean intensity to be overly competitive, but intensity in taking every point as it is the last and doing whatever it takes to secure a point. In this sense, possessing Fury aimed to make sure players do not become complacent and are always striving for better.

My team and I have officially played 7 matches in our league, we have won 3 and lost 4, but I am happy to note that we are steadily improving in our cohesion and skills. However, the constant excuse to our losses is that we are a new team and a club and we should not take this season as seriously, but for someone with a 5 year goal and plan, I cannot accept that. My team is starving to improve and perform at a higher standard, now is the time to discover what it takes to propel us to the next level.

 

 

Striving to give the perfect effort in volleyball

The Perfect Effort.

I first stumbled on his concept while watching the movie; When the Game Stands Tall. It is a concept where every player provides 100% of their effort whilst training / playing while trusting that every other player is doing the same. As a result, deep roots of trust and connection develop between players because each is working towards the same goal of victory and glory for the team. This is the mentality that I have adopted and expect from my team whenever we set foot on a court, and because of this I am able to play to the best of my abilities. It is about bringing out the best in each other, to grow organically towards a similar goal so that, at the end of it all, not only do players improve technically, but they also learn a thing or two about human connection, relationships and what it means to be resilient. This is the beauty of volleyball for me, and it is in the fact that the game cannot be played and won by any single player, but a group of 6 players. It is entirely possible for 6 individuals to win and even progress together, but when 6 individuals become a team, achievement becomes limitless.

“We’re like the blood in our veins. We must flow without stopping. Keep the oxygen moving and your mind working.” – Haikyuu.

I immediately resonated with this quote because it directly reflects my individual play-style of being primarily support / supporter archetype, as well as being in alignment with the concept of The Perfect Effort. It is not the responsibility of any one person to win a game, but an entire team to coordinate and connect with one another.

Reality: April 30th, 2017 at 11:30 am – First game of the season.

The first game that I debuted for my volleyball revival was a game to remember because it showed my team the areas we need to improve upon. Without any games as a team beforehand, we merely hyped ourselves up and hoped for the best. After all was said and done, the greatest moment of that “trial by fire” was the opposing teams captain coming up to us and commenting how that was the most exciting game of volleyball he has played in WAVL (my league) in years. To my team they may have still been discouraged about our near loss, but to me this comment highlighted the passion and intensity that my team has when we step on the court. I was, and still am, thrilled about that comment and always try to evoke that same level of passion and intensity in my own, and my teams, play every game day.

 

 

 

 

Setting a volleyball for the first time.

Volleyball Spike

Spike. The Spike. The feeling of fully contacting the volleyball and swinging as hard as you can, leaving that tingling sensation all across your palm. That was the one skill that I always wanted to be superior at when I first experienced the game. As I began to play seriously, you can imagine my first position of choice was the wing spiker. Like most young teens, I wanted to be the one to deliver a devastating spike that would demoralise / tilt the other team and excite the spectators.

Volleyball Setting

Fast forward and I no longer focus on the spike as intensely, it is more the interplay between the macro and micro aspects of the game now. This means I value continuously refining my fundamentals as well as increasing my awareness and strategy, in and out of games. It is then at no surprise that I find myself rising to the setter position for my new team and club. Being the setter is vastly different from any position (wing spiker and middle blocker) that I have taken because I have never enjoyed setting. I always wanted to be at the receiving end of a set and wanted to win the point for the team. However, through my maturity in the game, I have gained an overwhelming respect and admiration for all setters. It is bloody hard. No other position, in my opinion, really requires the ability to constantly multitask under stress, to the magnitude of a setter; simultaneously watching the opposing defence, being aware of a good or bad receive and what particular set and to whom will win the point. Not to mention, I have never been a fast runner and now I am in the position that constantly requires me to sprint, and honestly I have never enjoyed my position as much as I do now. Gone are the days when I wanted to stand out, to be the show stopper, but instead now wanting be the strategist and tactician. Through setting, I want to be “the control tower that tosses for spikes and coordinates the offence” – Haikyuu. This is also aligned with my goal for longevity in the sport as I find setting does not tax my knees as heavily, even with jump setting I am not exploding upwards in order to kill the ball.

A setter is “the control tower that tosses for spikes and coordinates the offence” – Haikyuu.

Additionally, not only am I taking up a new position, I am also proudly a part of a newly formed club that is playing for my league, the WAVL. This club, the Fremantle Fury VC interested me because of its potential for growth and my desire to be involved in its evolution. This season is to be my restart into the world of volleyball and I want to do it with people and a club that want to grow, a place where tradition and culture is still being created. Its time to make my mark and start anew in this sport and with this club.

 

Returning to play volleyball after taking a long break

As I made the decision to play volleyball again, the next step was to find a place where I could ease myself back in; nothing overly competitive but not completely beginner either. I did not want to be in a situation that would lead to another volleyball knee injury.  After some research I was able to get in contact with a local volleyball club, which was conducting social pick up games on Fridays. The feeling of stepping onto a gymnasium, not to mention a volleyball court, was like a nostalgia trip full of intense memories and a sense of relief. It was as if the simple act of stepping into a gymnasium subconsciously eased my mind from the strain that I was feeling for the years I was not active in volleyball. The club was the Rossmoyne Volleyball Club, this club was the stepping stone towards my volley to glory.

A few months elapse and I find myself relearning and retouching all of my foundational volleyball skills, which at the time felt trivial, but now have greatly supported my overall increased maturity and understanding of the game. I was able to meet other enthusiastic individuals who were coming out of retirement and were excited to play again. One of these people greatly influenced my maturity and development, Phil. He single handedly, with the facilities that Rossmoyne Volleyball Club provided, got me back in touch with the game and propelled my skills further than where I was previously. I previously thought I held a solid understanding of the game and all its intricacies and strategies, but I quickly learned that my knowledge was quite rudimentary. I knew enough to engage in social volleyball and enjoy myself, but not enough to play a carefully planned, organised and executed competitive game, at least not one out of High school. During this time I was carefully monitoring my knee health and began to incorporate extensive foam rolling after each session to ensure that my muscles did not stressfully tighten. Additionally, I bought another Bauerfeind knee support for my left knee as I began to feel discomfort and pain during and after each volleyball session.

As the indoor volleyball season for 2017 approaches, I believe my preparation has been quite intensive and I am excited to officially step back on the court. While I may never play at full 100% as other competitors, my hunger for  knowledge and understanding in recovery techniques and procedures, as well as injury prevention awareness ensures a solid foundation for my longevity and health in the sport.

 

Playing Volleyball with Patellar Tendonitis – looking 5 years ahead.

“I will never play indoor volleyball again, my knees cannot support me.” These were my thoughts 3 years ago, when the pain I felt in my right knee was debilitating enough for me to consider leaving the sport indefinitely. I had pain in my knee whenever I jumped or landed.

The pain I felt was very sharp during my play time, as well as chronic and mild during everyday activities. It was to the point where my right knee would sometimes collapse suddenly, without warning when I was simply walking in my volleyball shoes. At the time I was an active first year university student whose only real concerns were my grades, my health and my volleyball. I reasoned that because of my previously diagnosed jumpers knee (highschool) that this was the extent of my volleyball career, and at that point when my condition worsened, at least I still had a gym and/or nature to still use to keep fit and healthy. I never gave any thought into how playing a highly team oriented sport greatly affected my mental health and overall happiness. Going to the gym or taking a run in the park were good outlets to maintain / improve my fitness, but neither of those activities, although the option was available, provided me with a similar outlet to interact and engage with other people than volleyball.

Fast forward 3 years and, in hindsight, I was always searching for highly team oriented activities that I could engage with. I was incredibly active in my residential colleges’ community, I became deeply passionate and involved with a student organisation on campus and everywhere I went I attempted to make similar deep and interconnected relationships that resulted from my experience with volleyball. So here we are, 3 years after I thought I would never return to the sport, playing and debuting my competitive career once again. I have ultimately given myself a 5 year timeframe in which I will be as highly competitive, or even more so, as I was in high school by maturing my skills, understanding of the game and being able to adapt and push my physical limits.

5 years – V

I have given myself a timeframe of 5 years to be the absolute best that I can be mentally, physically and emotionally in the sport before I reassess my life conditions once more. This decision has presented me with a solid and strong sense of purpose and direction, where things in other aspects of my life may be unstable and uncertain, I use this goal as one of my anchor points to keep me moving forward and progressing in life.

It has taken me a lengthy period of time to realise that volleyball has, and will, become one of the keys to achieving “glory” in my life. Only time and proper preparation can tell if I am physically able to keep this goal alive for 5 years.