Volleyball magazine: What advice do you have for high school and college players for surviving preseason? What are your favorite memories of preseason at USC?
Natalie Hagglund: There arent many great things that I could say about preseason. I mean come on, who likes waking up at 6 a.m. to spend the entire day in the gym when it is 80 degrees and sunny at the beach? Actually, the truth is, Im weirdly jokingI loved preseason. There is just something beautiful about it, something inexplicable. Yes, I would complain about my bruises, waking up early, spending the entire day in the gym, but inside I was jumping for joy at the thought of getting into the gym and competinggoing lights out alongside some fresh new faces.
Preseason is difficult, but it can be the most important period of the volleyball season. Those few weeks have the power to bring teams and individual players up to a new level of greatness. My tip for getting the most out of preseason is: dont just survivethrive.
Every year, the first few days of preseason are great. There is a lot of energy, a sense of urgency, and a purpose in the gym. Players often take time to learn new techniques and use each rep as a chance to add that technique to their arsenal. However, as the days drag on and players get tired, the level of play begins to drop.
It is easy to fall victim to your own fatigue, but use this opportunity to challenge yourself to push past it and make every touch purposeful. Take on the mentality that every rep in these practices is just as important as it would be if it was 24-25 in the championship match. Before practice, imagine yourself competing in one of the most important games of the season. How would you serve the ball? How hard would you transition off the net? Would you follow through with your set? Now, use that imagery to set a standard for yourself and challenge yourself to meet it on every repetition, even if youre fatigued. This is not easy, but learning to have purpose on every ball is crucial to teaching your body and mind how to be successful even in the worst situations.
My favorite part about preseason at USC was the rebuilding of the team, starting over completely fresh and new. I loved the atmosphere, and I loved spending time with our new players and coaches and learning about them. I loved walking into the practice gym with our new gear and grinding away alongside my best friends.
Every day in preseason at USC, we had some sort of team-bonding activity after practice. We did cooking classes, karaoke, went to comedy shows, and even did some crazy ropes courses that really tested our limits. We had to learn how to communicate, to trust, and to love our teammates within a short amount of time.
Natalie Hagglund was a three-time First Team All-American libero at USC before starting her pro career in 2014 with Volero Zrich in Switzerland. She is a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team and contributed to the gold-medal victory at the 2015 Pan Am Games.
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