Concentration during volleyball involves focusing the mind. Just like everything else, focusing is a skill and must be learned.
From my experience of playing volleyball at a high level, I have come to
realize the best way to quiet the mind isn't by telling it
to shut up or arguing with it. Fighting it doesn't work.
What works best is learning to focus the mind.
Since peak performance is a function of a still mind, we must learn how to focus it.
To still the mind, one must learn to put it somewhere.
Focus means keeping the mind now and here.
Relaxed concentration is the supreme art.
By learning to focus while playing volleyball, one develops a skill that can heighten performance in every other aspect of life.
The following tips will help you learn to focus.
1. Watching the ball. Watching the ball means to focus your attention on the sight of it.
When your opponent serves, watch how the ball rotates in the air. It's easy to see the ball, but not so easy to notice the exact pattern made by its panels as it spins.
The practice of watching the panels produces interesting results.
After a short time a player will discover he is seeing the ball much better than when he was just "watching" it.
When looking at the pattern made by the panels one naturally watches the ball all the way to one's arms and begins to focus his attention on it earlier than before.
The ball should be watched from the time it leaves the opponent to the time it arrives at your passing platform.
Sometimes the ball will even begin to appear bigger or be moving slower. These are the natural results of true focus.
Another advantage of watching the pattern of the spinning ball is it tends to engross the mind completely. The mind is so engrossed in the pattern that it forgets to try too hard.
The mind is preoccupied and tends to not interfere with the natural movements of the body.
Even further, the pattern is here and now, which is to say the focus is on the now (not past or future).
Practicing "watching the ball" will help you achieve deeper and deeper states of concentration.
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2. Pass, Set, Spike.
Practicing "watching the ball move" can have an immediate impact on improving your focus. But after awhile, your mind may start to wonder again.
This is because your mind has difficulty focusing on a single object for an extended period of time.
So the question is, "How do you maintain focus for extended periods of time?"
The best way to do this is by not thinking you already know all about it, no matter how many thousands of volleyballs you've seen in your life.
Not assuming you already know is a powerful principle of focus.
One thing you don't know about the ball is exactly when it is going to be passed, set, or spiked by your opponent.
Say the word pass out loud the instant you see your opponent pass the ball. Say the word set the instant the ball is set and say the word spike the instant the ball is spiked.
The hearing of the rhythm and cadence of the pass, set, and spike of the ball seemed to hold the attention for longer periods of time.
This exercise is helpful because the player is getting better feedback from the ball and also clearing the mind of distractions.
One of the easiest ways to maintain interest in the ball is to not look at it as a stationary object, but as an object in motion.
Watching the panels of the ball spin helps focus your attention on the object itself, but it's just as important to increase your awareness of the flight of the ball as it moves towards you or your opponent.
3. Watching Ball Trajectory.
My favorite focus of attention is on the particular trajectories of the ball.
When I play volleyball, I notice the height of the ball as it travels from the server. It's apparent speed, angle, whether it's rising or falling should all be given careful attention.
I give the same careful attention to my own plays on the ball. For example, when spiking, the ball can be contacted in a way that allows it to loop over the block and fall into the center of the court.
Or when serving, the ball can be struck in such a way to float and rise up landing deeper in the court.
It's also important to read the trajectory of the ball when it's passed, set, or spiked by the opponent. For example, the better you are at reading the trajectory of a set, the better you'll be ready to anticipate the oncoming attack hit.
The more you come aware of rhythm and different trajectories, the better you increase your sense of anticipation.
It is the rhythm of both seeing and hearing that enables the mind to focus for longer periods without becoming distracted.
Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested.
When watching the ball, allow yourself to fall into focus. If your eyes are squinting or straining, you're trying too hard.
4. Listening to the Ball.
Listening to the ball is particularly important when serving.
In order to place the ball in the court where you want, you need to contact the ball in the "sweet spot".
When serving, a good server knows the distinct sound made on a ball that creates a good floater.
If you listen closely to the sounds of one serve after another, you will soon be able to distinguish a number of different kinds and qualities of sounds.
By listening closely to the sound your hand makes on the ball, you will soon simply just start to ask your body to do whatever was necessary to produce that unique sound.
Hold the sound in your memory and have your body reproduce it.
You basically just hold that sound in your memory and the body will tend to repeat the elements of behavior which produced that sound.
This technique is particularly useful when learning different kinds of serves.
For example, there is a distinct difference in sound of a ball that floats and one that doesn't.
Practice listening to the ball and the habit will increase the number of serves hit with a good contact.
Concentration During Volleyball - Serving
To achieve consistency and accuracy, you must become extraordinarily sensitive to feel.
One of the best ways to increase one's awareness of muscle feel is with "slow motion training" or "imitation".
Perform slow motion exercises where attention is placed on the feel of the moving parts of the body.
Get the feel of every muscle during movement.
For example, perform the movement of spiking a volleyball in slow motion.
Focus on executing perfect technique in slow motion.
Now, when you perform the spike in normal speed, you'll become aware of certain muscles.
If your technique isn't right at regular speed you'll start to "feel it". You'll start to feel it isn't right because you've train with the correct technique in slow motion.
6. Becoming aware of rhythm.
You can greatly improve your power and timing merely by paying attention during practice to the rhythm with which you spike the ball.
Everyone has a rhythm unique to themselves and if you learn to concentrate on this sense of rhythm, you fall into the rhythm that's most natural to you.
As you practice in slow motion you'll develop a sensitivity to this rhythm.
As you practice concentrating on the feel, things will start to slow down and simplify.
As body awareness increases, consistency and power will also increase.
You can program the best results by remembering as precisely as possible the feel in your hand, wrist and arm after a good solid contact.
Practicing this kind of feel develops what's called a "touch".
Developing a good "touch" on the ball is particularly useful for making adjustments during spiking.
Know what it feels like to move your body into position.
Bottom Line: Become aware of your body.
Expanding the sensory knowledge of your body will greatly speed the process of developing skills in volleyball.
Know what it feels like to take an approach and jump to spike a ball using correct technique.
If you're a setter, get familiar with what it feels like to move in position and set.
If you specialize in playing defense, become aware of how your body moves and what correct defensive positions feel like.
Remember, it's almost impossible to feel or see anything well if you're thinking about how you should be moving.
Forget should's and experience is.
In volleyball there are elements to be aware of visually, but it's important to realize you'll gain a big advantage if you improve your ability to listen and feel.