Olympian Kelsey Robinson reveals mental management techniques
By Greg Bach
The U.S. women’s national volleyball team’s quest for Olympic gold continues on Wednesday against the Dominican Republic in quarterfinal action, and 28-year-old outside hitter Kelsey Robinson will play a prominent role as she has all tournament.
She’s one of four returning players from the 2016 Olympic team that claimed a bronze medal in Rio.
We spoke with the versatile Robinson about the mental side of competing: her routine for discarding mistakes, motivating herself before practice, utilizing breathing techniques for enhanced performance, and more.
Check out what she shared that you can use to help your young athletes squeeze the most out of their performances:
Reset and reload: Robinson can’t afford to dwell on mistakes, and she has developed an effective technique for erasing them and staying fully present in the next point. “When I’m walking back from our huddle to get into serve-receive position I’ll look at the corner of the court along the baseline and I take a deep breath,” she says. “And the second I turn around that mistake is gone and we’re onto the next point. So I allow myself to process it, breathe and then I turn around and it’s gone.”
Managing motivation: “There are definitely days where it is hard to motivate yourself, especially when volleyball is what I do every single day,” Robinson says. “So something I do when I’m stretching before practice, no matter how I am feeling that day, I check in with myself and say ‘ok, it’s time to work for the next few hours.’ I get my mind right in those moments, which really helps me to be focused on the task at hand.”
Balanced breathing: Huge pressure accompanies every point that’s contested during the Olympics, but Robinson has learned to lean on focused breathing techniques to help work through those butterflies. “I definitely have nerves and those really don’t go away,” she says. “But I just really focus on my breathing: five seconds in and hold and five seconds out and just slow that down.”
Talk to teammates: “If I am feeling nervous I always try to make eye contact with a teammate or just kind of talk through it,” Robinson says. “I think that it’s really valuable to turn to a teammate and say ‘hey, this is a big match and I’m feeling a little bit nervous right now. Just to express that and know that you’re in it together, and I think that’s a really powerful statement to say that ‘I’m not perfect and I am feeling these things.’”
Value of variety: Robinson loved basketball and softball as a youth and didn’t play volleyball seriously until her junior year of high school. She attributes some of her success to the variety of skills she scooped up through her participation in other sports. “The biggest piece of advice I would give to younger athletes is play all the sports,” she says. “And I know that is difficult now because there is so much pressure from coaches. But I think playing all the sports helped me learn and understand my body and helps me to be really athletic; and it helped me develop a strong skill set and a huge volleyball IQ because I am a player who can do all parts of the game.”
Kelsey Robinson has a YouTube channel where viewers get a glimpse of her life as a professional athlete; and her website, nomandplay.com, showcases her love for travel, food and leisure.
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