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Karch Kiraly's Volleyblog

Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Spring 2010 issue. 
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This is my first blog entry, and I can’t think of a better way to launch it than by sharing an amazing experience I had on a recent trip to Colorado Springs. I flew in for the weekend from my home state of California to participate in USAV’s High Performance Coaches’ Clinic, an event where the coaching staff of the U.S. Women’s National Team and other prominent coaches presented information on a variety of topics designed to help coaches teach the game.

During a break in the clinic, I was asked if I’d take an hour or so to visit a nearby indoor volleyball facility known as The Big House. Sure, I said. It sounded like fun. And I’m always up for helping kids develop a greater passion for volleyball.

Little did I know that I was about to experience the greatest reception of my life. I’m not exaggerating. It was absolutely amazing. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

The first thing I saw when I pulled into the parking lot was that the kids had designed a special parking space just for me — a colorful chalk mural that said: “Welcome, Karch.” Inside, I was swarmed by nearly Karch Kiraly200 kids, and they were brimming with enthusiasm. Some held my hand, others sprayed me with Silly String, and a few of them had colored their hair pink in honor of the pink cap that was my trademark for well over a decade on the beach.

Minutes later, I was perched like a rock star on a small wooden box amid a sea of kids. I put on a fuzzy pink cap that they gave me and began delivering an impromptu speech. The topic: How to get the most out of your volleyball career.

When I cover this subject, I often ask people in the audience to envision themselves at the very end of their playing days. Then, I pose a question: Which person would you most want to speak at a banquet celebrating your career?

It was no surprise to me that many of them chose Misty May-Treanor or Kerri Walsh. Misty and Kerri are huge stars in our sport, and they’re great role models for young players.

My standard follow-up question is: How would you like to be described by that person? At The Big House, I got a lot of good answers. Among them: Hard-worker. Fearless. Great teammate. Someone who never gives up.

The reason I take young players through this exercise is to highlight the importance of creating a personal mission statement. You should try it. Ask yourself how you’d like to be remembered as a player, think about it carefully, then write down your answers. I’d even go so far as to put them up on the wall. That way, you’re continually reminded of how you want to play. And if you strive to meet those standards each and every day, you build trust in yourself to be the player you made it your mission to become. Building trust in yourself and having that confidence to go to during tough times will maximize your chances to have a rich and full volleyball career and to play well, too.

If I were asked the same question about what qualities I’d like to be known for as a volleyball player, this is how I’d answer:

Well prepared.” Over the years, I realized that if I’d done everything possible to prepare myself for matches and tournaments, it took a weight off my shoulders and allowed me to play without fear of losing. When you’ve done everything you can to train yourself for competition, you’ll sleep well when the tournament is over, win or lose.

Made teammates better.” When I was on the USA gold-medal teams in the 1980s, there were better hitters and blockers and servers. But one thing the coaches noticed was the high winning percentage of my practice teams, whether we were doing drills or scrimmaging. I worked extremely hard to help other players on my side of the net succeed.

Thought only of the next play.” When the ball hits the floor, the point is over, and you can’t control it anymore. So there’s no sense dwelling on the last play, no matter how good or bad. You’ve got to forget it and move on. If you don’t, you’ll be playing two plays at once: the last one and the next one. The best way to atone for a bad play is by making a good play on the next one.

That’s it for now. Look forward to talking with you again. Until then, play some ball and have fun.

Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Spring 2010 issue. 
To subscribe, visit this page for more information.