Every athlete I know, including myself, has always wanted to BE BETTER. My mission and this concept can sound a little brash to some but it’s not meant to be harsh, or make anyone feel like they aren’t measuring up. The goal is to put the emphasis on BE (instead of do) so that we can find BETTER. And in these high stakes environments in sports, if we can find 1% BETTER and understand the intangibles of our character we can push the limits of our potential. And that is the story that the challenged and rising Stanford Men’s Volleyball team is telling right now.
What a difference a year makes. When the last ball dropped against Pepperdine at BYU last year, it was supposed to be over. This smart, young, and talented group of men who have played at the top of their sport and loved volleyball for most of their lives would have to find another place to play if they wanted to continue at the NCAA level. They had all played through the club volleyball ranks, and shown that they had the skill to play at the next level, but they almost lost the ability to execute this chemistry together when Stanford cut their program last year. Fast forward one year, and the family of coaches, alumni, parents, and fans who fought to save the program will surround them tonight as they play for an MPSF Conference Championship, one year to the day they were knocked out last year. The optimist in me always believed this was possible. They are here because they defied the odds and defeated the #1 ranked team in the country. Beyond their incredible technique, there were some intangibles that are the hallmark of great athletes that made the difference.
So what were they?
CONFIDENCE- in themselves, each other, and the alchemy that results from that belief. Even when they were down in the semis, their belief that they could win radiated all the way into the stands.
LEADERSHIP - Volleyball is about chemistry, trust, and leadership. It’s possible for everyone on the court, and even on the bench, to lead if they understand their talents and those of their teammates. It’s a game that can’t be won alone, and true leadership fits together like a puzzle where each contribution fits seamlessly into the others.
GRIT - There was a feeling that they wouldn’t give up. Even losing the fourth set by 10, down 4-7 and losing an 11-7 lead in the fifth set, the tenacity to win the point never wavered.
The love for growing the technical skills of volleyball is a must to play at the highest levels of the game, but athletes should never forget to develop the intangible skills that create relationships, memories, and skills that will last a lifetime. Tonight I’m hoping these qualities, along with the beauty of their technical game, will earn the Stanford Cardinal a conference championship, the first since 2010, and a bid to the NCAA tournament. This Cinderella run is too fun to watch and write about, but no matter what happens, these guys are where they are supposed to be, playing together and writing a story that will serve the world far beyond the outline of that 30 X 30 court.
Let's go tonight Card! Rooting for you all the way to the National Championship!