Karch (our head coach) normally starts practice each morning either with a story, for example, about a moment in his career that relates to what we are doing in the gym at the present time, or a quote from a book that also has some sort of significance to us, for example about the process of learning. One question I am often asked when talking about my Olympic experiences, is what keeps you motivated? Or, similarly, how do you get through the grind? I often say, “i don’t wake up everyday excited about getting my butt kicked, but i go in, and i make sure that i have a goal in mind each day, before i walk in the gym. i ask myself, what am i getting better at today? like this i know i have something to work for, and can take satisfaction in my work at the end of the day.”
one morning this winter, karch began practice talking about his time as a player with the men’s national team. during that era, the athletes were not allowed to go overseas and play professionally. they spent 50 weeks a year in the training gym together. although karch is absolutely passionate about volleyball, and loves the game, he didn’t wake up every morning feeling like coming to practice. i found what he said so profound that i decided to write about it: “we can’t be successful and happy people if we always do what we feel like doing. we can’t be slaves to our feelings.” he joked about the “honey moon phase” we go through every summer, when we are all so excited to be back in the usa gym and to see each other. then there is the lull, where the grind becomes just the grind, and everyone is tired, and not as excited to be in the gym or see each other every morning. things start to feel like ground hogs day, over and over again. one of the concepts that we talk about is, “if we’re not getting better we are getting worse.” if we aren’t working our butts off to be better than everyone else in the world, someone in the world is doing just that. there’s no time to fall victim to our feelings, we just have to do what we know will help us to be better each day, and trust the process, even when it doesn’t feel good or when we don’t feel like it. oddly enough, more often than not, even when i don’t feel like practicing, when I leave the gym, I am glad I came!
Photo: Joe Regan