Jaimee Rindy | Middle blocker at Coe College, juniors’ club coach
On one hand, 25 points can go by in a hurry. And if you’re on the losing end, the points feel like they go by even more quickly.
On the other hand, reaching 25 going “one point at a time” seems to take ages. And that means some teams – particularly teams with younger players, but also teams with older players – decide that the first 15 points don’t matter all that much if they can pull it together in the last 10. But then the second half of the set is stressful, more challenging, and more effort must be exerted for every point. This is a really inefficient use of energy and a serious blow to your mental game.
What’s the solution? How can you make sure every point counts while still remaining calm when a point is lost? The answer is to introduce the mini game mentality. This is about breaking down 25 points into 5 sets of 5 and giving smaller goals within the larger one that keeps the team on track. For example: Be the first to 5, then the first to 10, then the first to 15, and so on.
If your team loses a mini game, give them a way to make it back up. Say they’re down 12-7. The new goal then becomes to get to 10 points before the other team gets 15.
By focusing on winning mini games, the goal is immediate and the payout is quicker. With every mini game won, the players feel a rush of euphoria at having completed the task, and it gets stronger every 5 points.
My college coach introduced me to a brilliant 6-on-6 game called “Up the Ladder” that’s entirely based on the mini game mentality. The game goes to 25, but it has a special scoring system. The first team to 5 gets to keep its points; the other team goes back to 0. Now the team with 5 points must get to 10 before the other team gets 5. If the team that lost the first mini game gets to 5 before the other gets to 10, they get to keep their points and the other team goes back down to 5.
This has become one of my favorite 6-on-6 games because it trains players to think about what points are actually worth and proves that by focusing on 5 points at a time, the 25 points become easier to manage. I also like it because a team could be down 20-0 and still come back and win the set if the players work hard to win mini games.
Players often try to do too much at once, especially mentally. The mini game mentality helps break down the goal and set a roadmap for success. It’s a good tool for a player’s mental arsenal.
Jaimee Rindy is a junior middle blocker at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.