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Besting Yesterday You

Photo by Han Duong |


All my troubles seemed so far away

The Beatles

Neal Emminger is CAP II candidate, lifelong learner and despite coaching only 6 years, is doing great things for his athletes. He started a beach program almost by accident in 2018, with 15 athletes wanting to attend his free practice sessions.

After attending the AVCA convention this December, he wrote his CAP II paper on mistake culture, which I got to edit. How had two excellent teaching ideas, the first of which I wrote about in the last Beacon, two weeks ago. Here’s Installment #2 – Yesterday You.

Motivation in sport comes in various ways. For me, I marvel at the need to “be motivated”. As coaches, sometimes we relent to punishing our athletes with pushups, rewarding them with candy, or dangling a conference/regional championship in their eyes. Some coaches yell, others give “motivational” speeches.

As a player, competing to see if we could win enough points is enough motivation. I’ve often thought that if you aren’t motivated to practice, there is either something wrong with your practice, or your goals don’t match your work ethic. In that case, maybe it’s time to look at doing something else (or going somewhere else to practice.)

Neal’s second great CAP II idea discusses motivation, explained in a slightly different way.

The main point is, be better than “Yesterday You.” As key words, these are succinct, catchy and to the point. Each day, use Yesterday You to set a benchmark for where you can start today.

When I read this idea, my first thought was that you will go up and down in your training, as “regression to the mean” leads you through some ups and downs. I think that’s the beauty of Neal’s thought. Since “Yesterday You” has set the benchmark, you know that you are capable of performing at that level; you’ve proven it.

When parents ask a coach, “Why isn’t Suzie playing more?” it’s usually that the coach has seen Suzie in practice, and knows (either statistically or visually) that Suzie isn’t consistently at the same level at the players in front of her. The parents don’t know her “Yesterday You” as well as the coaches do, who see her every day.

For lifelong learners, the Yesterday You idea is powerful. I was this good in the past, how do I improve on that? Am I willing to do what it takes to be better than Yesterday You? Those are important questions as we go through our volleyball journeys.

Even better, for me, is that comparing to yourself is a constant. As the game changes around us, with various opponents, venues, surfaces and even the ball, I have myself as a constant to measure against. Many coaching thoughts can be applied to Yesterday You; improve a little each day, improve 1%, worry only about what you can control, be consistent. Others I’m sure.

Measuring against your previous best sets a bar for you that you know you can accomplish. Striving to reach just past that bar might be enough to keep you motivated on the days where lifting weights is a chore, the couch is comfortable, or it’s just too cold to leave the house (as I write this, it’s below zero, so the thought is fresh in mind.)

Consider giving “Yesterday You” to your players as a motivational tool. Internal motivation, when you can find it, is the best kind.

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