To say a member of the volleyball team could break through a piece of wood with the strength of their hand would not be an exaggeration.
Sports / Volleyball
It would be a fact.
That was just one of the challenges the athletes faced during the preseason to help them with the mental aspect of their game. Head coach Erik Olson brought in Peak Performance Consultant Carlton Hutcherson to present mental challenges and solutions to the team.
“Whether you’re the holder or the person who’s going through the board, none of these women think that they can get through that one-inch piece of pine,” Olson said.
All of the team watched and cheered for one other as each player approached the challenge.
Madness ensued once the eight-by-10 piece of wood was split.
“We’re going to have that in games,” junior middle blocker Hallie Enderle said during an interview with CMU Athletics. “We’re going to be able to say that ‘I was capable of something that I never thought I could do.’”
Hutcherson has spoken to Olson’s teams before, but the two had lost contact over the past 14 years. Olson says Hutcherson’s lesson taught him a lot when he was still in college and even taught him something new this time around.
“Heck, it’s the first time I failed,” Olson said. “I’ve gone through several pieces of wood, because I’ve done it so many times. But I haven’t done it in 14 years, and I failed my first attempt. I learned something about myself: ‘Hey, my energy wasn’t high enough.’”
Hutcherson said the purpose of this experience isn’t to break the wood on the first attempt, but rather to learn from your mistakes and learn how to make adjustments.
“In today’s society, everything is instantaneous,” Hutcherson said to CMU Athletics. “We want instant results, we want instant happiness, we want instant oatmeal.”
Olson believes this training isn’t just preparing the players how to be successful in volleyball, it’s training the girls how they can be successful in life.
“I personally used it in school, because I was still in college when I was coaching in the beginning days,” Olson said. “I increased my GPA from a very mediocre GPA to a 4.0 for my last two years.”
Whether it’s making adjustments on the courts or in the classrooms, Hutcherson emphasized that there’s a process in becoming successful.
“There’s a journey involved,” Hutcherson said to CMU Athletics. “You have to be able to understand the journey and be happy while you’re in the journey, because if you’re happy along the way, you’ll stick to it.”
Besides breaking wood with the strength of their hand, the girls took on a high ropes course and a rock wall as a team. Everybody made it to the top of both, so Olson added an extra element to the challenge.
“The second time you went through, you had to go up blindfolded (and) tethered to two different people while someone communicated to you,” Olson said. “And that is extremely difficult. I’d say about half the team got up to the top and rung the bell, but the idea is the journey of trying to get up there.”
On a calmer note, the volleyball team also talked to a sports psychologist and learned how to meditate in ways to prepare for a match.
“Going into the season, we do have an advantage over other teams because of this mental aspect we’ve added to our game,” sophomore middle blocker Angie White said to CMU Athletics.
Olson says it’s tough to really evaluate the team before playing against other opponents, which will begin this weekend at the Oakland Invitational.
“Whether we win or lose, I’m going to come out of that with a laundry list of what we need to do to get better,” Olson said. “This is a very enthusiastic team. This is one of our more talented teams. We’re still putting pieces of the puzzle together.”