Bad Habits

By:  Stephanie Benjamin

 So you have a bad habit!  Welcome to the world of reality.  You are tired of hearing your coach drone on and on yelling, “don’t drop your elbow”, or whatever it is.  At every practice, you think to yourself, can’t he come up with something better than that.  Well, you need to take control.  Force your coach to come up with something else.  There is only one way to do that.  I guarantee, when you succeed, it will make you feel great.
 Everyone who plays a sport, picks up bad habits at some time.  Than they practice the bad habit over and over and get really good at it.  Normally some coach picks up on it and tries to change the habit.  This is frustrating for you because you can get the job done your way.  But, the bottom line is, if you want to move up to the next level, you must use correct fundamentals.  If your coach wants you to change, you are lucky.  You have a coach who cares about you; who wants you to be the best you can be.
 Breaking bad habits is much more difficult than learning new skills.  It takes 21 days to break a bad habit.  This is because of muscle memory.  Your muscles and nerves automatically do what you have practiced over and over.  You do not have to think about brushing your teeth, walking, or tying your shoes.  It is automatic.  But, to learn a new way to do these things, you must concentrate.  It is the same way with bad habits in volleyball.  You automatically perform the skill incorrectly because of muscle memory.  Now you must change that, which means you must concentrate on the NEW habit.  You will normally get worse before you get better.  You can not worry about results.  Most often, results will be poor.  You must concentrate on forming new habits, new muscle memory, so the correct way becomes automatic.  Bad habits are no ones fault, but changing them is your responsibility.
 It is important for you to understand, just working on your bad habit at practice is not enough.  If you really want to change and become a better player, it is your responsibility to work on change.  That means repetition at home, correctly working on the new skill without the added pressure of needing results at a practice or a game.  Do it correctly 100 times a night in different forms:  without  a ball, in parts, in slow motion, and at game speed.  Visualize the skill over and over.  Find a role model to watch who does the skill correctly.  Visualize the correct way  in slow motion and at game speed.  See it on the inside of your eyelids, your blank screen.  Physically do it in slow motion and game speed without a ball.  Add a ball if you can.  There is not enough time at practice to meet your personal needs fully.  It is your responsibility to change.  If you work on it at home and in practice, you will get results.  This will decrease your frustration at practice.
 It is your habit.  You are responsible for changing it.  If you do not change, someone else may start before you.  You must work on your own time to get better,  Do not get frustrated.  it takes a lot of time.  Just do it.  It will probably take a month.  But you will be rewarded 10 times over for your time and effort.  Once you have mastered your new habit, continue to work on it so you do not slip back into poor fundamentals.  Be patient.  Make sure you really understand exactly what your coach wants you to do.  Ask your coach what you should do at home to practice correctly.  They can give you the homework you will need.  If you are going to spend the extra time to get better, be sure you are doing exactly the correct form.
 Right now, pick your weakness and work on it.  If you have more than one, work on one at a time.  You must spend 5 days a week for 15 to 20 minutes a day.  You can not waltz into practice and expect hard work alone to get it done.  You must cognitively concentrate on the change.  If you only work at practice you will become very frustrated.  Remember, you can out work anyone.