Most would assume a professional volleyball player on the USA Women’s National Team has always possessed an unwavering belief in herself and her capabilities Well, that wasn’t the case for me.
It was 2004 when I truly found and fell in love with volleyball, and it was a complete accident. I was 14 and sleeping over at a friend’s house. She asked me if I wanted to come with her to the first day of summer volleyball camp orsleep until she came back. Thankfully I chose not to sleep more and tagged along, a decision I never regretted. I went with the intention of reading a book and watching from the sideline, however, a few minutes later, after getting permission from the coaches to sit and watch, they asked me if I wanted to join in on the practice. Well, I did join in and I was a hot and tragic mess. Young, tall, lanky, and possessing zero control of my body or the ball. I’m so thankful my coaches looked passed my uncoordinated limbs and the missed serves that never came close to making it over the net and saw the potential in me.
From that moment forward, I was continuously a part of high level teams and surrounded by players that had been playing serious volleyball since they were about 6 or 7, unlike myself. So, in my head, I always felt like I was spending most of my high school and college career playing catch-up. I was still learning all the basic skills and knowledge of the game, leaving me doubtful and critical of my skills, myself and the feeling I was steps below the players around me. As a result, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get and be better, often comparing myself to other players. I filled my head with many stories and thoughts like: “They have more experience than me”, “I’m not good enough yet” “I’m not good at that”, “ I CAN’T....”. “I make so many mistakes”, “Why do I always mess up”, “My teammates think I’m terrible”, “I can never get my serve over the net”. Well, what you believe, you become and I believed I was a bad server and I became and stayed a bad server for a long time.
One of the defining moments in my career was when I earned a new role as a starter. A USA National staff member told me, “It doesn't look like you believe that you deserve to be out there (on the court playing)” when giving feedback. I told him he was wrong, but later I would realize he was right. I didn’t truly believe that where I was on my journey as a player was “good enough” to be out there, playing big, and owning it. I knew I had to make a change. It was time to re-write the stories I told myself.
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t think I wasn’t any good, because I was good; the problem was that I was holding myself back from being GREAT. I was standing in my own way. The way I spoke to myself and the things I believed about myself kept me playing small and from living to my truest potential, in all aspects of my life.
When I became aware of the thoughts and self-beliefs that I had unconsciously filled myself with, I realized the only obstacle standing in my way was myself. I had a choice. And had always had a choice. I had a choice to cheer myself on or tear myself down with the way I talked to myself. I had a choice to play small and let fear and doubt lead the way or play big and belief in myself. By realizing I had many choices to make every single day I began to actively take part in my success.
As you can see, one of the most important things I learned on my journey is how powerful words are, especially the ones we tell ourselves.
Whether we realize it or not, there is a constant flow of conversation going on in our head. Stop and listen to the way you speak to yourself sometime, especially during difficult situations.
Like I said, I told myself I was a bad server, saying "I CAN’T become a good server", and it became true. I continue to use serving as my main example because it was my most mental and most challenging skill, yet after many years, I was awarded the Best Server award at the Montreux Volley Masters Tournament in Switzerland in 2014. Leading up to that, I had made a choice to speak differently to myself while I practiced my serve, especially after making a mistake. I made a commitment to more gentle with myself and to ultimately cheer myself on.
Failures happen. Fears and doubts are inevitable. But continue anyways on your journey. Have courage. Never let a stumble in the road be the end of your journey. Words are strong. Realize what you are telling yourself you can and can't do, because it will become true. Don't put a limit on your capabilities and dreams. Don't be the only thing getting in your way. Make your dreams happen. It's a choice. You have a choice. Choose to shine. Choose to play big. Choose to cheer yourself on. Choose to believe in yourself.
Today I am an Olympic hopeful looking to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics with an amazing and talented squad. Keeping words of encouragement and phrases in view played, and still plays, a HUGE role in me being able to make the daily choice to believe in myself, my capabilities and my dreams.
I’ve always felt a pull/calling/passion to use my platform to do more by providing young girls with encouraging words and content that they can bring with them on their journey to reaching their goals.