I have never seen a team go through an entire season without any bumps in the road. Sometimes, there are injuries. Sometimes, there are interpersonal conflicts. Sometimes, there are outside distractions. Sometimes, there is fatigue. Sometimes, there is lack of heart or lack of discipline.
This past week was a great learning experience for Berry Volleyball. This group of young women have already overcome their share of injuries. They came together as a new team with four of ten members being new to Berry with very little if any interpersonal conflict. However, this past week we saw the effect of fatigue and outside distractions, and at times a lack of discipline. In our match against our cross town rival, Shorter, we went an entire match without finding our rhythm. While we all left the gym frustrated and disappointed in our efforts, I was again impressed with this group's ability to regroup and respond. Back on the court the next night, they came out firing on all cylinders against a solid Southern Wesleyan team and continued our trend of playing very well at home. To me, that says so much about this group and these individuals. They learn from their mistakes and are willing to work hard to ensure that they do not repeat them. I do not question this team's heart. I have no doubt that they will meet the goals that they set for themselves this year. My challenge is to do my part in helping them.
Speaking of working hard, one of our players made an incredible impression on me on Thursday night after our home match. After saying goodbye to a recruit and retreating to the office to finish our day, it was brought to mine and Sean's attention that one of our players was still in the gym (a good hour after we had cleared the gym and everyone had left). When I looked out my office window to see if anything was wrong, what I found made me grin from ear to ear. One of our freshman had changed into workout clothes, set out targets, and was diligently working on footwork drills. We promptly dropped what we were doing and went down to help her. For the next 45 minutes or so, the three of us worked on footwork and transition with no net and no balls. I was barefoot as my dress shoes were not real conducive to demonstrating transition, and she was intent on getting better. She inspired her coaches that night, and I know she will do great things throughout her career at Berry and beyond. I am blessed to work with these types of players every day. I have seen many of them do something similar during their time at Berry. All ten players on our team push me to be a better coach, mentor, and person on a daily basis. I only hope I do the same in return.
After watching Mia Hamm alone on the practice field when she did not know anyone was watching, Anson Dorrance (UNC Women's Soccer coach) said, "The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, and at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching." Berry Volleyball is building something great, because these young women consistently meet this description of a champion.