On this episode of Coach Your Brains Out, Dr. Peter Haberl talks about an extensive study on Olympic beach volleyball partnerships and what makes a team successful over the long-term.
Dr. Haberl works as a sports psychologist for USA Volleyball and I’ve met with him a few times this off-season to talk about my own new partnership. One of the big takeaways from our interview is the idea of having a shared team philosophy and the communication of those values.
“You don’t need to have the same personality…but what you need to share is a common philosophy and a common motivation.”
It’s common for teams to have conversations about what their goals are but it’s more important to talk about what your values are. What work you’re going to put in day to day in the pursuit of those goals and “How you want to be on this journey.”
Compatibility is an important first step in forming a successful partnership. This compatibility comes from awareness—self-awareness and awareness of your partner. Your behavior has an effect on your partner’s performance, so once you know what words and actions they need you can behave in a way that helps your team.
You also know what not to do.
For instance, some partners might find throwing a chair and yelling about how bad they are an unconstructive use of a timeout.
Rough times are unavoidable, like in any relationship. You play long enough you will suffer bad losses and poor finishes. Having a shared philosophy helps you “navigate those stormy waters.”
The good news is that weathering those storms is a skill you develop.
I’ve never been the most open communicator with partners, choosing just to deal with small differences rather than complain. But if I had addressed those issues and gotten on the same page, not only would it have made partnerships more enjoyable it would have made us a better team.
When talking about how to communicate, Dr. Haberl mentions sharing your feelings without blaming your partner. “I’m angry” vs “You piss me off!” Owning the emotion and not making your partner defensive. I know I could use this technique in other relationships.
“Partners must come together as one.”
Another interesting idea we get into in this first episode is the importance of a shared decision-making style. Often there is an age-gap in partners with the older player taking the sole leadership role. But successful partnerships share the decision-making, treating each other as equals rather than one player calling all the shots. I think this especially makes sense in beach volleyball where you usually have players playing two different positions and seeing different things.
So remember to ask your young blocker what he thinks the strategy should be against an opponent so they feel they have a voice in the partnership. Then nod and say, “Hmm, okay, interesting,” before telling him the right answer.