Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Willpower in Volleyball: Building Self-Control and Excellence

I recently came across a fascinating radio interview with social psychologist Roy Baumeister, co-author of “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.” This book delves into the challenges of self-control and the struggle we face to overcome our natural inclinations towards laziness and procrastination. Baumeister’s research led him to view willpower as a muscle that can be exercised and developed, much like building physical strength.

In the interview, Baumeister shared an intriguing study that examined how exerting discipline in small aspects of life can have a significant impact on self-control. For example, participants were asked to focus on improving their posture for a week. Surprisingly, this simple action resulted in better self-control across various unrelated tasks.

This discussion got me thinking about the immense role willpower plays in the sport of volleyball. Elite national team athletes, who compete at the highest level and aim for Olympic glory, undoubtedly possess tremendous willpower. However, even at lower levels of the game, willpower is crucial for players seeking to make their practices more productive and excel on the court.

One area where willpower shines in volleyball is in consistently covering the hitter. While most players understand the importance of this skill, it requires discipline and determination to execute it consistently. As an exercise, I challenge young players to focus on covering their hitters for an entire week. By paying attention to their teammates’ swings and being ready to react, they can gradually improve their self-control and enhance other aspects of their game.

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During my time playing on the U.S. National Team alongside phenomenal hitters like Steve Timmons, Pat Powers, and Craig Buck, it would have been tempting to occasionally neglect covering the hitter. After all, these players were exceptional at putting the ball away. However, consistently covering the hitter can be a game-changer. It can demoralize the opposing team and ultimately tip the match in your team’s favor.

I recall a story shared by my dear friend Tom Pestolesi, who now coaches at Irvine Valley College in California. When we played together on the U.S. Junior National Team, our coaches had us engage in unconventional drills, including one specifically designed to improve coverage skills. Although Tom initially found the drill mundane, I took it seriously, encouraging my partner to throw the ball harder to maximize its benefits. Tom often mentions that my display of willpower motivated him and other players to practice with greater focus and determination.

This story illustrates an essential point: not everything we do in volleyball, or in life, promises excitement or immediate functionality. However, having the willpower to make every minute count will undoubtedly yield benefits. It will transform you into a better player and a better person in the long run.


Q1: How can I improve my willpower in volleyball?
A1: Building willpower in volleyball requires consistent practice and discipline. Focus on small tasks like consistently covering the hitter and challenging yourself with daily goals. By treating willpower as a muscle that needs exercise, you can gradually enhance your self-control and excel on the court.

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Q2: Why is covering the hitter important in volleyball?
A2: Covering the hitter is crucial because it can demoralize the opposing team and significantly impact the outcome of the match. It involves being prepared and ready to react when your teammates take a swing, ensuring that no opportunity is missed to make a play.

Q3: Can willpower in volleyball improve other areas of my game?
A3: Yes, developing willpower in one area of your game, such as covering the hitter, can have a positive ripple effect on other aspects of your play. By building self-control and discipline, you’ll find yourself more focused, efficient, and motivated to excel in all areas of the game.


In the world of volleyball, willpower is a crucial attribute that separates average players from the exceptional ones. Roy Baumeister’s research on self-control highlights the importance of treating willpower as a muscle that can be exercised and developed. Consistently covering the hitter exemplifies the discipline and focus required to enhance one’s performance on the court. By exerting willpower and making every minute count, players can elevate their game and ultimately achieve greater success. So, embrace the challenge, build your willpower, and unlock your full potential in this beautiful sport.

Visit Alpinetgheep.com for more insights and tips to take your volleyball skills to new heights!