Mind games

Mental aspect of sports just as important as physical skill

January 14, 2017 === Men's Volleyball === The SAIT Trojans men's volleyball team take on the Medicine Hat Rattlers in volleyball action in the SAIT gym. Photograph by: Andrew Crossett

SAIT Trojans men’s volleyball team take on the Medicine Hat Rattlers in the Campus Centre at SAIT. Photo by: Andrew Crossett

When it comes to sports, the general consensus is that it’s all physical skill, which, in turn, leads to the mental aspect of the game being overlooked.

An old philosophy in sports states that it is 90 per cent mental skill and 10 per cent physical skill, showing how much one’s mentality impacts their play.

Although the numbers may not be accurate, to SAIT Trojans men’s volleyball head coach Sean McKay, the saying is true, especially for student athletes. 

“Volleyball isn’t the only thing in your life, you’re juggling a lot of things,” McKay said. 

“It takes a lot mentally to drop off the academics and social stuff and just focus on volleyball.” 

These athletes balance many factors in their lives, but are given a chance to have a break when it’s time for a practice or game. 

McKay sees this as a positive aspect for athletes and not another thing to add to their to-do list.

“Two hours a night these guys are volleyball players,” McKay said. 

“It’s a chance to forget about the other stuff and enjoy it.” 

McKay himself is all too familiar with the mental aspect of the game, as it has only been a few years since he played. 

Now, viewing the game from the sidelines, he has to be mentally prepared in a different way than the players. 

“When you’re an athlete, you really have to worry about yourself and your teammates,” McKay said.

“As a coach you have to worry about everyone, its not just X’s and O’s.” 

In addition to being able to block out aspects off the court, McKay points out how  it’s just as important to remain mentally strong during games when things aren’t going as planned. 

Every game is different, and at times, teams will start off slow and are forced to play catch-up and push for the win. 

“Having the guys being able to draw on past experiences when they succeeded  is important going into that scenario,” McKay said. 

Steven Guebert, captain of the men’s volleyball team, echoes what McKay says about drawing on past experiences.

“If we have a slow start we just have to think how it will affect us in the long run,” Guebert said.

“Everything adds up in the end.” 

To get mentally prepared for the grind of the season, McKay sent a message to the team, which has inspired the players to come out strong each game.

“At the beginning of the year, coach said, ‘If you want to be the best you have to think you’re the best’.

“We’ve gone into that mentality for every practice and game.” 

It’s a mentality that has led the team to the top half of the standings as they gear up for the remaining games in the regular season and playoffs. 

For Guebert and the rest of the team, it’s important for them to remain mentally strong, as other teams will start to push more to rack up wins and gain momentum. 

“We have to have the mentality that every other team is working just as hard as us,” Guebert said.

“We have to go as hard as we can.” 

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