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From the JVA Office: Facing Rejection and Taking Risks

October 8, 2020 7:01am

Rejection comes in many shapes, scenarios and forms. The struggle that comes with rejection causes some to fear rejection and avoid the hard situations, and instead they remove themselves from the chance to fail. But playing it safe only limits one’s ability to reach full potential. 

Don’t Fear Rejection

I’ve always encouraged the young people that I have coached throughout my career to read the sports page.  There are so many life lessons to be learned in those pages: great stories about how athletes handle winning and losing, how they’ve overcome adversity, how they get through a slump, etc. 

I came across a great example of this the other morning in an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Tramon Williams, Corner Back for the Green Bay Packers.  His wife found a copy of the letter he received 13 years ago after training with the Houston Texans as an undrafted rookie.  It was a simple form letter with a series of check boxes, each box citing a reason that they did not want a player back.  The box that was checked Tramon’s letter was, “In the judgement of the club, your skill or performance has been unsatisfactory as compared with that of other players competing for positions on the club’s roster.”

I thought the story was going to go in the direction of, “yeah, that really made me mad and made me work harder;” or “I will show them!” But Williams response was, “I remind myself that this game will knock you down repeatedly if you allow it.  You have to believe in yourself more than the chatter around you, you define your value.  There are no limits to what you can do with an opportunity, but there is a limit to the number of opportunities you will get.

I love that response. Tramon didn’t respond in anger.  He didn’t get bitter.  On the way into work that morning, I thought what a great message to share with all those athletes finishing high school tryouts and looking forward to club tryouts later this fall. 

I especially want the athletes (and their parents) who decide to not tryout for a team simply because they don’t think they can make it, to think about the opportunities they may be missing because they fear rejection.  Rejection hurts but it doesn’t kill you.  You will survive.

Take Risks and Overcome Fear

Dream big dreams” is what Sandy Zimmerman told Dr. Rob Bell, Sport Psychologist, Author and Speaker, on his podcast- 15 Minutes of Mental Toughness. She became the first mom to ever complete the American Ninja Warrior course. You have to dream big! Dream big means we cannot play it safe. Dreaming big means taking risks and putting yourself out there. Dreaming big means there will be failures, criticisms, and setbacks, but if you play it safe and do not try out for that team, or go for another level of play, then you’ll never reach your full potential. 

The big question is, “Why would you not even tryout for the program or the team you really want?”  I asked an expert, Trevor Regan, Founder of “Train Ugly”.   Trevor has spent much of his life studying how the brain works and how we can train our brain to help us achieve more.  How much you can achieve is related to overcoming fear.  In his Ted Talk, How to Overcome Fear”,  Trevor explains how the “Lizard Brain” is the area of our brain that helps protect us from dangers.  However, our brain doesn’t know what challenges are dangerous and which are good for growth and learning.  We have to overcome our fear of rejection by not listening to our lizard brain that is telling us to fear uncertainty, change, the attention of being looked at, and the struggle to perform.  By not following our instinct to avoid rejection, we can attain more than we had imagined.

Trevor also shares with us that “Harder is better.  Let resistance guide you.  The items on your to do list that freak you out are probably the most important.  The drill you hate doing the most, is probably the exact one you should be doing.  The conversation you’re dreading is probably the most urgent.  He adds, “Start.  Struggle.  Fail.  Fix.  Learn.”  

Dr. Bell shares, “Here is a very blunt piece of information for you about volleyball, sports, and life. You will fail, you will face rejection, and you will encounter difficult times and adversity. This may look like someone starting over you, losing a big game, or not making a team or school. The way to avoid any of these is simple, do not play. Now, rejection of any kind hurts, it should, but that what hurts, also instructs. It may not even be fair about the adversity you face, but there is a solution. Don’t give up! Look at what parts of the game you need to improve and get back at it, keep a positive attitude through the tough times as well and do not blame any coaches, teams, parents, or other players. They are not in control of your life, you are, so focus on what you can control.”

I reached out to a former athlete, Stephanie Hernesman.  I was lucky to coach her as a freshman in high school.  We had a great season; she was a starter and team captain. The following year, the JV coach cut her. I was stunned.  Stephanie returned the following year to tryout again. I asked Stephanie to share her story.

I remember tryouts like it was yesterday.  I remember doing well and thinking that I had a shot of not only making the team, but that I could be a starter. On the last day of tryouts, the coach made a decision that most likely changed my path and my life forever.  After 25 years, I still remember that day.  I remember the look of shock on my friends’ faces when I was cut…they couldn’t believe it; I couldn’t believe it.  I left the gym thinking that the sport I loved and lived for was no longer in my life and a part of my dream.

I remember going home and crying and then going to my closet and taking all of my volleyball clothes out of my closet, shoes, kneepads, tournament shirts, uniforms, everything; carrying it outside and throwing it out into the street… and sobbing.  I remember my younger sister (still brings tears to my eyes) coming outside and trying to cheer me up with a chocolate chip cookie…I threw that out onto the street.

After that things are a little bit blurry, but I do remember my dad telling me that if I don’t want it to be over it doesn’t have to be.  At the time I probably didn’t want to hear it or didn’t believe it.  After some convincing I decided he was right.  I joined the YMCA and got on a strength program and worked really hard to get stronger.  I played club that same year (after getting cut yet again from the same coach from my club program), with a club that was excited to have me.  My goal was to not only make my high school team, but to get to the next level.

Not only did I make my high school varsity team, where we won 2 state championships, but I went on to have a successful college career.  I got to play for and win 4 conference championships, play for a National Championship (finished 3rd), finished with a lot of personal accomplishments that included All-Conference, All-American, NCAA All-Tournament team (as a freshman) and not to mention a lot of team accomplishments.  I walked away with the best experience of my life time and that I tell anyone who wants to listen I would do it all over again if I could. 

I do think about that moment a lot….and if I would have let someone else determine my path, my future, I never would have been able to experience all the great volleyball opportunities that I have had up to date.  After finishing my college career, I became a coach… and 20+ years later I’m still telling the story to my athletes today.  My message to them is that they get to write their own story and make it what they want. If they want it bad enough, they get to fight for something they love.

I am now running Jacksonville Skyline Volleyball and in 2.5 years that we have been here we already have a lot of those stories…and I’m thankful that I get to be a part of them.

Whether you’re a young athlete, coach, director or aspiring to be, I hope you are encouraged to go out and write your own story.

Start, Struggle, Fail, Fix.

Train for Competition Beyond the Ball

October 8, 2020 7:00am

To fully prepare athletes for competition, coaches should be training the mind along with training the physical aspects of the game. A team’s physical performance is a direct reflection of the quality of physical training. A team’s mental readiness is a direct reflection of the emphasis placed on training the mind.

Here are five ways to begin to train your team beyond the ball, a glimpse into the new JVA educational series launching next week:

1.  Establish a positive “Sense of Self”

  • Coaches and Parents- Be honest and honoring. Tell your athletes you’re proud of them with off court reasons.
  • Teach athletes the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence, there is a difference and you should be building both.
  • Athletes- Be proud of who you are! The stressors in your life aren’t easy to handle and you don’t need to be so hard on yourself.
  • Your competition isn’t on the other side of the net. Your competition is in the mirror.

2.  Facing challenges without allowing them to damage your “Sense of Self”

  • Coaches and Parents- How you respond to the athletes’ adversity will highly determine how they develop their intrinsic personal value.
  • We all are equally responsible for building a greater Sense of Self, all of us!
  • Athletes- You will face challenges in every aspect of your life; expect them and prepare yourself by visualizing certain situations you may encounter.
  • Once you can see it, act it out and prepare yourself to live it.

3.  Now that we are here, let’s stay here. Do not allow anything or anyone to take this from you.

  • Coaches and Parents- Set your expectations for errors, losses, drama, etc. and visualize and practice your positive responses.
  • What do you do after a bad loss? If you are holding on to it you’re partly to blame if the athletes are too.
  • Athletes- You get one shot at every age group and every year.
  • Errors = Opportunity- Embrace all of them as opportunities of growth. Athletes make errors at every level, the best ones come right back!

4.  Give your teammates your “Best Self”, don’t we all deserve that?

  • Coaches and Parents- Are you compassionate and understanding when the athletes need it the most? This is what your Best Self should do.
  • Ever ask your athletes or children what they feel you can do to be more supportive of them? You should because they’ll tell you.
  • Athletes- If you knew you couldn’t play tomorrow how hard would you play today? Approach your off court preparation like this as well.
  • This is it, every team is for one season at every age group. Don’t leave this one up to the “What If”. “What if” I would have given more??

5.  Attributes of the greatest competitors (hint: talent is not one of them)

  • Coaches and Parents- Some of these are referred to as intangibles, are you just looking for them or are you developing them?
  • High fives and hugs with any signs of growth.
  • Athletes- Make a team list of attributes to live by, ex: drive, desire, sportsmanship, effort, compassionate, supportive and a few others, now hold each other to those expectations.
  • Work on developing character-based attributes that will help you grow off of the court. Doing this will have a positive impact on your on court readiness.

A Routine to Help You Stay Healthy (and Sane) While You’re Stuck at Home

by Samantha Cassetty, RD

All around the globe, people are gravely concerned about the fast-spreading coronavirus. Many of us are stuck at home, isolated from friends and loved ones, worried about our food supply, our health, our finances. We’re dealing with an ever-changing environment and massive disruptions to everyday life as we know it. This new reality will have a heavy impact on many people’s lives, not to mention their health routines. But this is a time to take a step back and reflect — and think creatively about how to manage your health and well-being under tricky circumstances.

You may not be able to eat the rainbow at every meal or keep up with your regular cardio routine while practicing social distancing. There are, however, many ways to stay healthy at home. To the degree that it’s possible, eating nourishing foods, participating in daily physical activity and maintaining relaxation practices can do wonders for your mindset, your immune function and your general well-being. Here are some tips for keeping it together while you and your family are holed up at home.

1. Focus on creating balanced meals

This isn’t an ideal situation so flexibility is required. Do your best to create balanced meals with what’s available. Aim for a generous portion of produce (whether fresh, dried, frozen or canned), some protein, healthy fats and quality carbs, ideally in the form of starchy veggies (like potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash) or whole grains.

You can check out this complete list of what to stock when you’re at home with coronavirus to get a sense of the foods you should try to keep on hand. Though it’s smart to have enough food to last a while, it’s not a good idea to panic shop or hoard groceries. We’re all in this together!

2. Make meal prep part of your daily routine

Though spending more time at home may give you more time to cook, having a solid meal prep strategy can make it easier to get through your extended stay. Start using your fresh ingredients, such as fresh meats, poultry, seafood and fruits and veggies before moving on to longer-lasting frozen and shelf-stable items. You can also use shelf-stable foods to help stretch meals made with fresh ingredients. For example:

  • Make tacos using a mix of beans and ground meat or poultry. This will help serve more eaters — or help you serve more meals out of a single batch.
  • Whip up bean purees (like white beans with garlic) to serve alongside chicken and fish dishes. Since these sides contain protein, you can use a smaller portion of your main dish to help ensure there are leftovers.
  • Stir beans into soups and sautéed greens to serve as a filling main or protein-boosting side dish.
  • Accent meals with nutrient-rich nuts and seeds. They’re not only delicious, but they pack protein, fiber and other health-supporting substances — and they’re easy to store.

And remember, now’s not the time to shun carbs! Whole grains, pasta and fortified cereals can be part of a filling, balanced meal. Incorporating them into your dishes will give you more variety, plus dry products like these stay shelf-stable for a long time. Here are some ideas to spark your inner chef:

  • Have a bowl of whole grain, low- (or no-) sugar cereal with dairy or an unsweetened plant-based milk. Add sliced apple or pear (these fresh fruits will last a while in your kitchen too) or some frozen berries. Top with nuts or seeds. On a different morning, make this with yogurt instead of milk.
  • Have a bowl of oatmeal sweetened with cinnamon and vanilla extract along with fresh, canned or frozen produce for breakfast one morning. Oatmeal can also be used as a savory side dish. Mix it with green peas (they’ll add protein and fiber) and serve it alongside eggs, vegetable soup or another entrée.
  • Mix pasta with canned tuna, fresh, frozen or canned veggies (such as green beans or tomatoes) and olives one night. Another night, you can use edamame or white beans to add protein and more fiber to your pasta and veggies.
  • Use quinoa or brown rice as a base for grain bowls and stir fries. Both grains can also be used as a warm cereal.

3. Make room for snacks and comfort foods

When you’re doing your shopping, don’t forget the snacks and fun foods! Fewer social interactions is likely to mean more screen time and more family activities. Snacks can add extra nourishment throughout the day, while fun foods can help keep your family’s spirits up! And remember, baking can be a great family activity that also provides extra treats to nosh on.

Preparing your favorite comfort foods can help bring back cozy memories and make you feel good. Keep ingredients handy so you can break up your dinner routine with lighter versions of classic comfort food dishes.

If you’re able to order in or pick up prepared food, consider making it part of your meal-planning approach. Not only will it help infuse cash into local businesses, but taking a break from the tasks of cooking and cleaning can very much fall under the category of self-care. At this time, many delivery services are offering contactless delivery.

4. Line up activities to avoid stress eating

One of the struggles when working from home is the constant boredom grazing you might partake in. There’s also the fact that the heightened stress can trigger emotional eating. It’s totally natural to reach for food to provide comfort during these challenging and uncertain times. And while it’s okay to lean on food sometimes, it’s also important to find other ways to cope. Here are some options

  • Set up a virtual therapy session
    • Many licensed social workers and psychologists offer their services online. An app, like TalkSpace, has a lot of support built into its plans, including special programs to help you handle COVID-19 stress.
  • Curl up under a weighted blanket
    • If you’re missing physical contact, you might get some comfort from a weighted blanket, like this highly rated one from Luxome. Studies suggest weighted blankets can help ease anxiety and contribute to feelings of calmness.
  • Try a short meditation.
    • If you’re bored at your home desk, plug in your ear buds and listen to a quick guided meditation to stay centered. In addition to reducing anxiety and depression, practicing mindful meditation has been shown to help curb impulse eating. Insight Timer is a free app that offers a full library of guided meditations. Use Insight’s search tool to find a meditation that meets your time requirements (as short as one minute) and addresses your need state (sleep, stress, overeating).
  • Practice gratitude.
    • This coronavirus pandemic is a very overwhelming situation, but we all have things to be grateful for. Maybe you’re grateful that your family is healthy, you have a comfortable space where you can hunker down or you just had a warm meal. Studies show that meditating on gratitude can impact the pathways in our brains that promote positivity. A positive mindset has also been linked with healthier eating.
  • Work on a puzzle.
    • Not only does this serve as an alternative to food, but it’s also a fun family activity to do while you’re stuck at home. One with a pretty outdoor view, such as this serene beach scene, might be just the distraction you need.
  • Color. 
    • Studies suggest that redirecting your attention to a soothing activity like coloring may help lessen anxiety. Try an adult coloring book like this one from Intricate Ink.

5. Make time (and space) to work out every day

Finding ways to stay active is good for your physical and mental health. If you have open space — a yard, a park, a safe sidewalk — where you can keep a safe distance from others, consider taking a walk when the sun is shining. A bike ride is another great activity that doesn’t involve any invasion of personal space. If in-person yoga classes or the gym is off-limits for the time being, you can supplement with at-home workouts. Here are a few ideas for staying fit in a confined space. Though most of these are paid apps, some offer free or reduced-price trials.

  • Planet Fitness is now offering daily free fitness classes that are being live-streamed on its Facebook page. Each class will be a maximum of 20 minutes. All you need is an account — no equipment required.
  • Pilates anytime offers mat Pilates and some barre-style classes that you can do from the comfort of your living room. Classes can be sorted by time and ability.
  • Aaptiv has an assortment of activities that are set to music. If you’re going outside for a run or walk, you can use this tool to stay motivated and keep up your pace. It also offers other workouts, like yoga and strength training.
  • Daily Burn is a great option if you love group workouts. You can pick from a number of styles. Alternatively, if you prefer to go solo, there also workouts for those who prefer a one-to-one training vibe.
  • Glo has an extensive yoga library, along with Pilates and guided meditations. There are more than 4,000 on-demand classes so you won’t get bored, and you’ll work out with some renowned yoga instructors.

We may be struggling through a global pandemic, but maintaining your healthy routines — whether that’s a workout first thing in the morning, starting the day off with a healthy meal or making time to relax and reset — can provide a sense of control when things feel uncertain. We’ve all got a lot on our minds during this challenging period, but hopefully some of these suggestions will help you ride it out more calmly and healthfully.

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