Life Lessons from Volleyball

This month, I had the honor of watching my high school’s volleyball team compete in the state tournament. Small town sports teams are a close-knit community of learning and growing and bettering oneself and others.

I had a wonderful volleyball coach in high school – someone who guided and molded and shaped me as an athlete and a person. Unknowingly (or, maybe to her full knowledge), my coach provided me many nuggets of advice that have stuck with me throughout the years and have turned out to be applicable in many contexts of life beyond the volleyball court.volleyball

  1. Know your responsibilities, but be willing to go out of your way.

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, this means a player knows which parts of the court they need to cover. It is that person’s job to make sure no ball falls on that part of the court, and that they are playing the ball in a way that contributes to the team’s goal of making a competitive attempt at scoring a point. There are grey areas, though, which are the boundaries where the zones belonging to two different players meet. In that region, either player could play the ball equally well, just so long as someone plays it rather than allowing the ball to fall to the court. (Side note: This grey area is often known as the “husband and wife” area because lack of communication can lead to failure to make a play on the ball and loss of a point.)

Real life meaning: We all have things that we have to make sure are covered and taken care of in our day-to-day lives: rent, bills, kids, feeding ourselves, and going to work. All the tasks that fall into our realm of responsibility can feel like a lot at times, but we need to be willing to flex on that and even add more tasks. Sometimes a coworker or spouse may need help to get things accomplished, or something unexpected could come up that has to be handled. Taking on that responsibility yourself could mean that you are effectively managing the situation in what would be the real-life version of competitive-ness – doing a little more than just existing and surviving by making that situation just a little bit better and figuring out how to use it to contribute to your overall well-being.

  1. Trust your teammates.

Volleyball meaning: You don’t have to do everything yourself. This is a balance with my previous point. While you need to make sure you’re covering your area of the court and step up to cover the periphery of your area sometimes, you need to trust that your teammates are doing the same. One person can’t effectively cover the whole court. If they could, a volleyball team would just be one person. Trust your teammates, and lean on them to help you.

Real life meaning: There are people in our lives who can help us accomplish everything that needs to get done. A lesson that I’m still learning (slowly, and repeatedly) is that it’s alright to let people help me. It’s okay to take someone up on their offer to contribute to your life even if they don’t have to do it – they wouldn’t have offered if they didn’t want to be taken up on it. It’s even okay to ask for help. The end goal here isn’t to score a point, but to get everyone through life and have each person be as okay and good as they possible, and sometimes (usually) that’s more than one person can do for themselves.

3. TALK.

Volleyball meaning: It’s impossible to look both at the ball and see where each teammate is at all times. It’s also impossible to know what’s going on both on your team’s side of the court and the opponent’s side of the court at all times, and what you can see is often from a different angle or perspective than another person’s. Talking, LOUDLY, is a major part of volleyball. Players go home hoarse all the time from talking so much.

Real life meaning: One person can’t see or know all that is happening, and each person involved in any situation will have a different perspective. As humans, we tend to fill in the gaps in a story with details that make sense in our own minds, even if those details are not true. It’s incredibly and dangerously easy to believe that they are true, not even realizing that we generated those “facts” ourselves with no basis for knowing whether they are real. Talking and communication are just as key in real life to make good decisions and handle situations effectively so that we can do more than survive and exist.

  1. Make a decision and commit.

Volleyball meaning: The best way to play a ball may not always be clear, but one thing is certain: the ball will fall to the court and a point will be lost if we don’t do something. Anyone who has spent much time playing volleyball remembers a moment when their hands felt stuck at chest level because they couldn’t decide whether a forearm pass or an overhead contact would be best with the ball coming at them. Usually, this ends in a messy contact just to keep the ball off the floor, when committing to a technique would have resulted in a ball played more cleanly that would be easier for a teammate to use.

Real life meaning: The same thing happens in real life. Occasionally, we find ourselves waffling on a decision for so long that we end up backed into a corner and having to do something, anything, to get out. Sometimes it is impossible to know all the information we want to know to make a decision. And sometimes, even when we have all the information, we can’t see into the future to know which decision is best. In that moment, you just have to make a decision and commit to it. Maybe you trust your gut, or pray over it, or make a Rory-Gilmore-esque pro-con list. Whatever your method, though, something has to be done. Personally, I would rather know that I made my own choice rather than getting pigeon-holed into doing something I didn’t choose.

  1. Swing through.

Volleyball meaning: This is serving and hitting vernacular for “follow through.” If you’re going to serve or make a competitive attack on the ball, you need to swing your arm all the way through the ball to put as much power behind it as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of the ball falling short of where you wanted it to go, or that the attack was too gentle and allows the opponent plenty of time to reach the ball before it hits the court. Knowing where you want the ball to go and how you want that attack to end gives direction and a goal to a hit or serve, and swinging through is the action to get the ball there.

Real life meaning: Goals and desired outcomes are great, but a half-hearted attempt is unlikely to have the power needed to see a goal to the end. Committing to a plan and following through with a directed force to achieve those end results is critical. This means going after ambitions with passion and gusto to make them reality!

  1. “Plan B” is not “Plan A – Harder.”

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, the same set of skills are performed repeatedly to make up a match. If a player makes a mistake in their skills, or is completing a skill incorrectly, it can quickly lead to frustration and attempts by the player to perform the same faulty skill simply with more aggression. My coach always used to say, “I don’t care if you do nothing else right, as long as you don’t x again.” That x could be letting a ball fall to the ground, it could be hitting into the net, it could be serving the ball out the back of the court. Whatever it was, the requirement was never for perfection. It was to avoid making the same mistake repeatedly. Even if I still messed up, I just needed to make sure I messed up in a different way. Breaking skills down this way helped to take the focus off of coordinating everything and doing it all just right, and instead helped to hone in on adjusting just one part of a skill and working specifically on that. This was an excellent way to overcome repeating the same faulty skill with frustration, and instead work on making even a small improvement or change.

Real life meaning: I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Even if we add more enthusiasm and desire to a method that hasn’t worked, it is unlikely that it will work just because we’re trying harder. A better method is to re-work that fervor into a new plan to avoid wasting time, resources, and energy on an action that just isn’t delivering the effects we want. Trying a new approach certainly won’t make anything worse, and it might even make things better in ways we never expected!

  1. Better every ball.

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, it is very common that teammates make mistakes and by the time the ball is yours to play, it is not ideal. There might be a weird spin on the ball, or it might be in a position on the court that’s difficult to finagle into a competitive play. This is incredibly common and happens frequently. Here’s the deal, though – just because you were left with less-than-perfect conditions under which to play the ball, you can’t cop out. If you do, it ends in blame that is destructive to a team mentality. No matter what, you have to do the best with what you have. And sometimes, those plays can be the most effective because the other team doesn’t see them coming!

Real life meaning: Whatever hand you’re dealt, it is critical that you do your best with it. We’re all going to catch tough breaks; that’s just a fact. And they’ll be hard and frustrating and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably cried. But we have choices. We can just blame the circumstances for our mediocrity, or we can put in work that we’re actually proud of, and maybe find more success than we would have had if things had gone the way we wanted!


What lessons have you learned from your sport that you have carried with you throughout your life? Please share in the comments section below!


Ways to Get Your Exercise Outdoors

As the weather warms up, we all want to get outside and enjoy it! When daylight is limited, it can be tough to decide between working out inside the gym or relaxing in the sunshine. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, though – try these ways to fit in your physical activity while playing outside and you can enjoy the beautiful weather without missing your workout.

Even better, you can take the opportunity to play outside as just that: time to go back to your playful childhood days when you stayed out ‘til dark. Here are some outdoor exercises you could try, some serious and some just to have fun and get your body moving:

  1. Go for a walk.girl riding bike
  2. Go for a jog.
  3. Go for a run.
  4. Ride your bike.
  5. Go window shopping downtown – make it into a scavenger hunt!
  6. Play catch with a baseball or a football.
  7. Look for a nearby park with a walking path and fitness stations to test your strength with various obstacles.
  8. Walk to a friend’s house for a visit.
  9. Lay out your yoga mat on the lawn.
  10. Intersperse your walk/jog/run with 30-second intervals of bodyweight exercises like skipping, lunges, burpees, pushups, or anything else you can think of.
  11. Take your dog to the dog park and run around with him/her.
  12. Climb every set of stairs you can find on your walk.
  13. Use a park bench or picnic table for step-ups, jumps, or inclined pushups.
  14. Play tag.
  15. Play volleyball, basketball, soccer, street hockey, tennis, or another sport.
  16. Go surfing.
  17. Jump rope.
  18. Return to your childhood and play hopscotch.
  19. Swim in a local lake.
  20. Grab some friends and do relay races in the backyard – do moves like running, crab walking, and leapfrogging.

So throw on some shorts and get outside to enjoy that sunshine! What are your favorite ways to get exercise outside?

Tune Scoop: The Effect of Music on Exercise

Do you like to listen to music while you exercise? People’s preferences about whether they listen to music, what kind of music they choose, and their reasons for doing so are as varied as the workouts themselves. What effect does music actually have on how people exercise?

  1. Listening to music can decrease rate of perceived exertion (RPE), or how hard you feel like you’re working. This can be great to help you work out a little longer because you may not feel as tired as quickly.
  2. You may actually enjoy your workout more. Research says it’s true – music is associated with greater enjoyment during exercise.
  3. People can be categorized as ‘associators,’ ‘dissociators,’ or ‘switchers.’ Associators focus their attention on the exercise, dissociators focus their attention elsewhere, and switchers have flexible attention focus. Music could provide the focus for attention that dissociators need, while associators may simply find it distracting.
  4. Music can help you focus on your workout longer, even if you’re fatigued. But be careful here – research showed that even if people were still focused on the workout, the music was not able to prevent their performance changes due to fatigue. If you are too tired to correctly perform the exercise, you increase your risk of injury.

Personally, I don’t tend to listen to music while I work out. Of course, I love jamming out during my drive to the gym and I enjoy if it’s playing over the speakers or if I’m in a group fitness class, but on my own, I don’t choose to plug in to my own music. I’m an associator – I love to feel my body working. For me, there’s a sense of autonomy in working out without music. Going for a run outdoors, especially, with nothing but the clothes I’m wearing, gives me a feeling of independence that I crave. My other reason for forgoing exercise music is less profound – I hate to wear headphones, and I can’t seem to coordinate my movements around the cord and it really just ends up being a distraction for me.

Although the evidence points to potential benefits of listening to music, there is not necessarily a need to add it and you’re not at a disadvantage if you don’t prefer workout music.

Do you listen to music while you work out? Share your favorite workout songs in the comments!



Barzegar H, Soori R Akbarnejad A, Vosadi E. The effect of music on athletic cardio-respiratory responses and perceived exertion rate during incremental exercise. Razi Journal of medical Sciences, 2013;20:32-39.

Jones L, Karageorghis CI, Ekkekakis P. Can high-intensity exercise be more pleasant? Attentional dissociation using music and video. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, Oct 2014;36:528-541.

Hutchinson JC, Karageorghis CI. Moderating influence of dominant attentional style and exercise intensity on responses to asynchronous music. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 2013;35:625-643.

Lopes-Silva JP, Lima-Silva AE, Bertuzzi R, Silva-Cavalcante MD. Influence of music on performance and psychophysiological responses during moderate-intensity exercise preceded by fatigue. Psychology & Behavior, 2015;139:274-280.

You Can’t Hate Yourself Healthy: What Healthy Really Means

Health is not dieting your way to an “ideal” weight or punishing yourself with exercise because you just really wanted that slice of cake. Health is not scanning every room to rank yourself on the “who’s in the best shape” list or avoiding going out with friends because you worry about what they’ll think of the meal you order at the restaurant. Health is not obsessing over every calorie you eat or talking yourself out of going to the gym because you might not be as strong as the person grunting out squats next to you.


What does it mean to be healthy?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Some sources point out that WHO’s absolute use of the word ‘complete’ would result in categorization of most people as ‘unhealthy.’ Still, the point remains that optimization of well-being in each aspect – physical, mental, and social – is the means to reach greater overall health.

Health (and, alternatively, adverse health risk) can be measured using a myriad of factors including, but certainly not limited to, alcohol use, cholesterol, hypertension, nutritional status, BMI, physical activity, air and water quality, health care access, and quality of life. No single measurement is the deciding factor of whether or not a person is healthy, but rather, the bigger picture created by the collection of indicators is what matters.


Healthy is the loving act of taking care of yourself – giving yourself what you need to be okay physically, mentally, and socially. The trick is finding the balance between choosing nutritious foods and not making yourself crazy over calories, between doing exercise you enjoy and not beating yourself up if you miss a day. There is so much more to being healthy than how you compare to someone else, or even how you used to be. Health is about you in your life right now.

You don’t have to be perfect to be healthy. It would probably be harmful to your mental health if you tried to be perfect. What you can do is recognize that attention to your total well-being is how to reach a state of health and do your best to nurture yourself physically, mentally, and socially.

How do you take care of yourself and love yourself healthy?



World Health Organization. Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.

National Center for Health Statistics. Health Indicators Warehouse. Accessed February 2015.

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People. Accessed February 2015.