Life Lessons from the Volleyball Court

I blame volleyball for the fact I’m still single. That’s right. It’s all volleyball’s fault I sit at a table for one.

Okay, okay, so the real reason is my lack of desire to play the game. Ever since it was on the rotation in grade school’s PE class, I have had a strong dislike of playing the game. “Please don’t hit the ball to me,” I’d think to myself in a prayer-like chant. That continued through Jr. High and High School’s PE rotation as well. I never developed an appreciation for the game. And since it is the go-to fall back in single wards, I’d avoid it. Hence, singledom. Just not my thing. So imagine my surprise when my youngest niece develops a liking toward it. Enough liking to be on the High School’s volleyball team. That is the only reason I’ve been watching the sport lately. As I sat at her game recently, I thought of how the sport can relate to life.

Know your limits, emphasize your strengths

My niece, although tall by her family’s standards, is the shortest one on her team. She will never be able to play front row because of this. But she knows the back row very, very well. Her strengths are serving and setting. She knows to stay away from attempts at blocking or spiking.

In life, we all have strengths we’ve been given. Everybody’s strength is different and that is by design. We also all have weaknesses and flaws. While we should always work on our weaknesses we should also remember we can only do what we can do. For example, I love to sing and perform. Can I sing though? No. Will I ever be able to sing? Probably not without a lot of work that I’m not willing to put forth the effort to do. So, should I ever expect to sing the National Anthem as a soloist somewhere? No. Could I do something else for the event? Yes, I could serve as emcee. I could help with publicity. I could help set up. I could help with clean up. I could help with a number of other jobs. But I will not be able to sing. And that’s okay.

Another factor here is to not try and fake it. The adage “fake it till you make it” may get you in trouble. It’s okay to recognize your limits and to communicate them if need be. Just remember, you have strengths in other areas.


Communication is key

I noticed as I watched the game, a few players would be gathered under the ball as it dropped towards them. A simple, “Mine” let the other players know to back off and let one player hit the ball. Sometimes, there was no communication and the ball dropped in the middle. Or two people called it and neither tried for it with the same result.

Open and honest communication is key in life. We must be clear and direct about our actions especially when our actions affect other people. Because I am the quiet one in circles, I get blamed for the lack of communication at times. This is unfair. Communication requires more than one person for it to be, in fact, communication. In life, it’s more than just saying ‘mine.’ It is an understanding between two parties so both parties need to know how to help the other person understand their perspective.

All of us are different and have different thought processes. We assume there is this ‘common sense’ and blame others for not having it when they do things we don’t understand. There is no such thing as common sense. Accept that no other person will arrive at the same conclusion as you for the same reason. On the flip side, we shouldn’t take it offensively when something is explained to us in a way we deem condescending. We just need to be able to understand one another.


Teamwork is vital

Volleyball is very much a team sport. The team gets to have contact with the ball up to three times before sending it over the net. No team member can touch the ball twice in a row. This means there is a lot of orchestration of movement to get the ball ready to go over. The players need to work as a team and put away solo performances. One, two, three.

None of us are here to operate 100% individually. Social interaction is a needed requirement for everyone. The quantity of social interaction varies among individuals. Some need a lot. Some need very little. But all need some. Or should receive some.

It’s okay to not be okay all the time. When we are not okay, we need some team members jockeying into position to help us get the ball over the net. Whatever that may look like for us. One, two, three. “Are you okay?” “I haven’t seen you around in awhile, let’s do lunch.” “I am so sorry your mom passed away. Do you want to talk about it?” Whether our life is a team sport with solo efforts or a solo sport with team efforts at some point we all need to rely on the team. Maybe for only a moment but it’s nice to know our team is there when we need them.

While I’m still not a huge fan of volleyball, I recognize the merit in the sport. As with all sports, it can serve as a teaching moment about some life lessons. Or it can just be for the fun of it. Not my fun, granted, but some people’s fun.

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