In this week’s article, we hear from Stacy Rivoira—a dedicated coach, mentor, and mother! Stacy is an impressive combination of what many coaches and players aspire to be and I’ve had the great pleasure of working alongside her in the past. Rather than an interview, this is more of a guest post by her. Read on to get her perspective on what qualities take athletes from good to great.
As a little background, Stacy spent the last 23 years coaching high school volleyball (with 14 of those as the head varsity coach). She coached at Bristol Eastern HS in Bristol, CT where her team won multiple state championships and is a perennial region championship team. A few summers ago, I coached a summer camp alongside Stacy and got to see her awesome program in action! She recently decided to move on from coaching, for now at least, but is leaving behind a legacy.
So with that, I’ll let Stacy take it away:
Love for the game
I love coaching because to me it is the purest form of teaching. I am an elementary educator and have been for over 20 years but it is coaching that brings me the most satisfaction. I get to interact with my players daily, set goals and expectations, prepare to meet those goals and expectations, and then my team gets to go out and execute those goals and expectations during game play. The next day, we as a team get to start that process all over again. I love to reevaluate, reassess, and refocus with my team. Through discussion, a high level of competition, and hard work, we work through the complexities of being a successful team. We define what successful means and then we work together to find it. I love that about coaching.
A decline in mental toughness among athletes
High school athletes’ mental toughness and self-motivation has changed over the years. I have noticed that more and more athletes want more for less. In other words, they want to be a part of a team, they want to be successful, they want to be a starter, they want to be a captain, they want to be on the varsity…they just don’t always understand or want to accept the responsibilities and commitment that come with all of those things. When pressed to hold them to a higher standard, many opt out and choose not to play.
I have noticed over the past 23 years that more athletes than ever have the mentality that if I am not going to start then why bother playing at all? My numbers have gotten smaller over the years as this mentality has grown and fewer athletes want to be a part of the team if they don’t have a starting role on the team. I no longer get kids that want to come and learn the game, be a part of the team in the most unselfish way possible, and be the biggest cheerleader they can be for the better of the team.
However, the players that are left to play are dedicated and are committed.
Helping athletes turn it around
I believe that once players understand their value as a team member and understand how a team operates with everyone doing their part, players are more likely to buy into what you are teaching. Once players are also able to see the rewards of their hard work, they are more likely to invest their time and make it a priority. Many athletes want results fast but as we all know, that isn’t always possible. Teaching athletes about the journey and guiding them through the steps is what helps them stay focused on the goal.
Accepting feedback is the key to learning
I also feel that athletes today often need a lot of guidance and support to listen to constructive criticism. They feel personally attacked when feedback is given. Many athletes can’t handle being told that their efforts aren’t good enough and take a coach speaking to them so personally.
I feel that so many athletes have never been held to a high standard, have never had to perform to that high standard consistently, and have never been asked to put personal goals aside for the team so once they get to my program, they have a difficult time adjusting to such expectations. It has taken many years of consistency is my message to get kids to understand they why of what I do and to buy into why Bristol Eastern volleyball has had a tradition of being successful.
Skills to take you to the next level
Athletes need to be mentally strong but also need to be physically ready. Speed and agility, core strength, endurance, and volleyball IQ are essential. My best players have always had the strongest volleyball IQ not necessarily the best athleticism. That being said, the athletes that I have coached with a combination of both have had the most overall success.
The athletes that have made the biggest impact on my program were also some of the smartest in the classroom. They were focused, self-motivated, passionate, competitive, goal orientated, athletic, hardworking, and intellectually smart. They understood how to balance all of their responsibilities successfully and eagerly accepted every challenged presented to them.
My greatest achievements as a coach have always been the reward of one of my former players coming back to me and letting me know that their experience on my team helped them grow or become successful in some way. The friendships I have formed with so many of my players confirms that what I do in my program is making a difference in the lives of my athletes. That is an amazing accomplishment and for me makes me most proud. Having the opportunity to coach my daughter for 4 years is also one of the highlights of my career so far. It is something I wouldn’t trade in a lifetime.
A huge thanks to Stacy for sharing her insights with us and for years of dedication to her athletes! If you’ve got a story to share and a desire to help the next generation of athletes, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in more great stories? Check out the rest of our blog to learn more about the recruiting process, college and professional volleyball, and advice from athletes who have taken their game all the way!