There is a new piece of art that hangs over the doorway in my living room. It’s a rustic wooden sign from @HarperGrayce that reads:
It’s become my mantra to back up my life philosophy and I love the imagery it brings to my mind in just two words. From my deep valley roots, the word cultivate reminds me of deep rich soil that grows sustainable, high-quality things, and calm is the state I recognize as my gateway to peak performance. My new sign reinforces my life philosophy:
“To create calm and connection with every breath and movement.”
Understanding the value of deep calm in my life and home helps me channel it and take it out into the world. Zeroing in on your life philosophy is a fun, creative exercise that helps us drill down on what is truly unique and important to us. Once I realized that feeling of deep calm is where I feel most myself and perform at my best, I looked for more opportunities and techniques in my life to tap into it. Breath work, yoga, writing, mindfulness, and daily movement, are just a few of the ways that I have learned to help me find flow in my life, no matter what is going on around me.
For so many years, I didn’t know I was operating in a state of fight or flight, sympathetic dominant, always waiting for the shoe to drop. That wasn’t a place I could flourish, my body and mind were guarded most of the time, and I wasn’t able to capitalize on my own strengths. It impacted my performance on the court and in my life. Learning how to recognize my state and work with it has been a game changer (thanks @BrianMckenzie and @intrinsicway)! Although understanding myself on a deeper level has cultivated calm in my life, one of the greatest benefits has been being able to walk the walk and help other people understand what they are about by being real and sharing my own story. No one achieves anything great alone and the culture we surround ourselves with is an integral factor to the levels of success we will achieve.
When we know who we are, more and more we find ourselves in places that align with our interests and values, and the conversations and experiences just flow. For me these days, they almost seem to fall in my lap, and I feel the greatest sense of freedom to be myself. Alignment is a magical feeling.
As I chatted back and forth with another beach volleyball player the other day, the words that came to me were
“The forties are a decade of incredible power.”
Maybe that’s by design, it seems that we hit a place in our forties where if we are willing to dig in and understand the layers of ourselves, and what our life has created, we have an incredible ability to step into our uniqueness and power and create culture around us. I call it finding your ‘Type Be’. When we find it, we open up opportunities to create culture around us that points us toward what we should learn (and unlearn) in life. My passion lies in telling the stories that are universal in their struggle and unique in their experience to help people connect their lives with others. Whether it’s a team, a family, a community, or professional environment, when we are able to provide vulnerable leadership, we can inspire culture, and that is exactly what great coaches do.
This week, I reached out to a few mindful athletes and legendary coaches to get their take on building team culture and loved the synchronicity of what I got back from them, both with my own message and between theirs, because they play and coach for different programs. Here is what they had to say:
“The concept of team culture has so much depth. In the world of sports, sometimes winning or losing depends on the strength of your team culture, and the unity of the players. To me, no matter what “team” you’re on, whether it’s your work team, your family, or an actual sports team, one of the key ingredients to success is vulnerability. Having this trait opens the door to so many other things that make or break team culture, like the ability to have courage, trust, be honest, and be whole-hearted in what you do. Being vulnerable with teammates allows them to understand not just the surface of your being, but the deeper layers. And when everyone on the team can see this in each other, the culture comes naturally.” - Katie Kennedy - Long Beach State Beach Volleyball
“At Long Beach I think we have the best team culture. I say so only having been a part of the Long Beach culture, but Alan does such a good job in this aspect. I think it all starts with the coach, manager, and parents. Culture is a huge thing we talk about at Long Beach and that not one person is bigger than the team. We talk a lot about carrying our own luggage, which is carrying your weight, so you can then help people along the way. We always have each others backs and any sort of confrontation/accountability is all from love. Open communication is key.” - Mason Briggs, Long Beach State Mens Volleyball
“For me a strong team culture starts with empathy for others and an understanding of yourself, and that others will operate differently, and that’s ok. Once they can understand that they will see things differently and react differently under stress, they can give each other the space to be who they are, and help to fulfill each other’s needs through that understanding.” - Stein Metzger - Head Coach UCLA Beach Volleyball
All of these quotes reinforce my belief that our ability to lead and build strong team cultures happen when we soften our ego, genuinely root for each other, and compete to be the best version of ourselves. Healthy, interdependent team culture is rooted in a ‘we, not me’ mindset and the ability to hone our own unique skills whether we lead from the sidelines, are the star of the team, or anywhere in between. Each of these quotes remind me of the ripple effect we have on each other and the importance of surrounding ourselves with great people with tireless work ethic who know how to work and love at the same time. Our choices, actions, and most importantly, our ability to understand our deepest motivations, make us leaders that create deep calm in others and inspire confidence to compete without the need to be anything more than who we are in this moment. Work hard, stay present, and trust that the path will appear…even in my most difficult moments, this formula for deep calm hasn’t failed my team yet.
With love & optimism,
Photo Credit: Anthony Moore @amoorephoto_
My song this week - piano and some great lyrics are tough to beat.
One of my favorite things is to wake up to an inspirational text from my friend Chrissy. She is an amazing writer and mom (check out her blog Life with Greyson + Parker) and when we met 10 years ago, we were trying to figure out the ins and outs of having kids on the autism spectrum, even though neither of us actually had diagnosis’s yet for our children. She is one of the best silver lining humans that I know, we are kindred spirit introverts that just get each other. As we went back and forth this morning, waxing philosophical even before we had had our coffee, our words pointed to what I was already writing about this week…our tendency as humans to compare ourselves to one another and the jealousy that it can create. I’ve learned over the last few years that there are so many ways to do life, and once we find the courage, it’s just easier to be ourselves, without apology, than think we need to copy anyone else’s journey.
For me that has meant connecting deeply to the world of sports…a place that has always been an outlet for my nervous energy but also one where I feared that I couldn’t hang. As a younger athlete, I lacked confidence and it became the thing that I most wanted to teach my kids, not just on the court, but in life, so they could find and pursue their passions, whatever those passions may be, and nothing makes me happier than to see them learn to lead doing what they love to do. We all need that place in life. As athletes my older two have had some of the highest highs, like achieving their dreams of playing at the Division 1 level, and also battled through lows like injuries (I think Lauren inherited my weak ankles) and heartbreak, (let’s get this reinstatement taken care of @gostanford), but above all have come through difficult circumstances on and off the court that shape their character and build their resilience in life in a way that makes me so proud. Through my parenting journey, I have seen how much the world of coaching and parenting intersect, and how comparing our lives to anyone else’s, diminishes our potential to make the impact we were meant to make on the world. Even saying you have the desire to make an impact is scary. It brings out the fear of failure and the dreadful feeling of imposter syndrome, that “who am I to" (fill in the blank).
As humans we have a tendency to compare and even be jealous of what other people seem to be or have in their lives when all that does is contract our own unique path. It’s got me thinking about the impact comparison and jealousy have on our happiness and performance, individually and as part of any team. Teams come in many forms…work, families, sports, clubs…anything that has an established culture that we are a part of, for better or for worse. This week I had the privilege to get the feedback from an masterful Championship winning volleyball coach and a 2016 Olympian on how they handle these concepts in their own lives, and on their own teams. I’m so grateful for these conversations and connections, here is what they had to say:
“Everyone on a team has to feel like they are an integral part of the team. People may have different roles on a team/organization, but each individual needs to feel appreciated, they add value to the central mass, and that they have freedom to fulfill their individual role. As the leader, I need to convey to the troops what is the environment that THEY would like to be part of. I then give verbal praise in front of the entire group whenever I see actions of the culture we want. Then almost a competition can develop of who can do the most “positive actions”, because generally people like to be praised! One of the first messages I will say after saying “hello” is that we are not going to have jealousy for one another. If I give praise to someone for positive actions, we are NOT going to talk negatively about the “doer of good deeds”. I ask for each team member to take a symbolic one step forward if they agree to not to be jealous of the doer. Then when I give the first positive comments to someone in front of the group, I will IMMEDIATELY joke and say to the group something like, “hey, we’re not mad at so and so are we?”. At the end of the practice, I ask for players to nominate one another as the “player of the practice” and the players have to be SPECIFIC why they are nominating a teammate (“Suzy reassured me after I mad an error”, “Sally’s servers were on and scored many points”, “Sam had that one incredible dig”. I make a point we want to honor physical plays AND selfless actions as well. This makes the less athletic kids know they can be honored by being selfless teammates. -Tommy Chaffins, Prep Volleyball Coach of Year, Max Preps Coach of Year, Daily Breeze 11x Coach of Year, Redondo Union High School Head Coach (and someone I have seen personally create culture where teenage girls learn to both support each other and compete!)
“I think jealousy is a good teacher. Usually when we feel bouts of jealousy they are signals that someone else has something we would like to have ourself. I think recognizing this before it becomes detrimental to yourself and/or your team is the number one key. Since feeling jealousy reveals those things we wish we could have, it can act as a gateway to walking the path to finding the best version of yourself as a player, teammate, athlete etc. If you feel feelings of jealousy because your teammate is starting and you aren’t, what actionable step can you take to improve your chances of seeing playing time more? Do you need to spend some more time getting extra repetitions at a specific skill? Do you need to spend more time in the weight room building foundational strength? This is just one example of how we can turn feelings of jealousy into positive actions. Another way to look at jealousy is through the scope of building your own internal confidence and high self-worth. Your feelings are ultimately in your control. When we are in an environment where jealousy is at the forefront it’s a signal that there is inner work yet to be done. There is never anything anyone is doing outside of us to make us feel jealous, those feelings are solely felt because of our own perspective of what is going on or what is being conveyed to us. Within a team we want to feel connected, and build trust and have a foundation of confidence from the coaching staff to the training staff to the players. Valuing one another and treating others with respect and full support is the main goal within a team. So those very fragile feelings of jealousy can easily be released if we focus the right kind of energy on them and take actionable steps to rid ourselves of them too. - Carli Lloyd, 2016 Olympian, Professional Indoor Volleyball Player, expecting mom, May 2021, writer of her blog, Show Up With Me - and someone who has the one of the greatest blends of compassion and competitiveness I have ever seen.
We find our purpose when we use our passion to create something unique to us that has an impact on something larger than ourselves. When we connect to our higher self on the most intimate level, our goals become so specific, there is no way to compare them.. Every week that I write, I get closer to making that impact that I want to make: to raise generational consciousness and teach life lessons through sports so we can make our greatest impact and develop deeper empathy for all of the stories of the human condition. My challenge to you this week is to get so clear on the impact that you want to make on this world that you can see who adds beautiful connection and collaboration to your life and that you you would never again dream to compare yourself to anyone else.
With love & optimism,
Photo credit: Anthony Moore (@amoorephoto_)
Brenda Cash (@brendacashphotography) for the photo in my email if you get my blog updates there;)
And because there is always a song that comes to mind. when I write….
The signs and experiences have been there my whole life. Not in the boldest ways, but in ways that are unique to me…always there to teach me something. Sometimes I call myself a late bloomer because I reframed the phrase, slow learner. More often these days, I realize that I process life on a deep level and it takes me time. As I get older, I see that as a gift that helps me stay curious and learn about myself and other people and what makes us all tick, and I love writing about it. One of my cool conversations on the beach in the last few weeks with an engineer turned coach explained it as “root cause”, I’m always looking for the why behind the story.
Lately, scenes from my own story flash through my mind that I haven’t thought of in years. 1988, Kochi City, Japan, Friendship Games…my first ever international travel experience and it was to Japan to play volleyball. Traveling with a team at 14 without parents opened my timid eyes to the world and was the best experience. Randomly at the end of that trip, our team ran into Karch Kiraly at the Tokyo airport and as we all recognized him and went a little teenage girl crazy, he was gracious enough to stop and sign our tournament t-shirts and take pictures. I hadn’t thought of this story in years until I watched the beautiful play of Miki Ishi and Megumi Murakami on Thursday at 8th St. in Hermosa Beach. With all the turmoil in the world this past year, sports have been one of our greatest sources of unity.
I have always loved volleyball. I learned how much with every set back. A dive on the floor that tore my thumb ligament my senior year of high school and made me miss the whole season, my rubbery ankles that couldn’t take someone coming under the net and ended my walk on run at Cal Poly. There aren’t any championships marking my path, but each of these set backs taught me more about how much I love to play and how to take care of myself so I am able to impart these lessons to my life’s greatest work…Lauren, Luke, Kate, Matthew…as they learn to travel their own paths.
Since these early volleyball days, the challenges have run deeper. Healing from broken relationships, and near death parenting experiences have only deepened my perspective on the game of life, and the things I learned through sports have helped define my own comeback story. One thing is for certain, life will deliver adversity to our doorstep, and we have to figure out how we will respond. This week I’ve been thinking about the integral parts of what makes our comeback stories great and sets us on the unbeatable path of greater self awareness.
I was inspired to write about the comeback this week because of the struggles that I have watched my oldest two go through in this wild year we have all endured. Trust the process, surrender to what is, and believe that the path with presents itself. Let’s go @savestanfordmvb, we’ve got momentum, keep battling. @Lauren.turner21, couldn’t be more proud of your grind and incredible sense of self-awareness. Sometimes the fight doesn’t look like you thought it would, but if we follow our instincts and keep training our minds, bodies, and spirits, the comeback is always greater than the setback.
With love & optimism,
Inspired by life and music - the choice this week.
Photo credit: @matts.photography_