Hillcrest coach helping young team to believe in themselvesOct 01, 2022 07:45PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
On Sept. 13, Hillcrest High volleyball won its first game at home in straight sets against region rival, Cottonwood High. It was the team’s fourth win, with other preseason wins over Granger, Monticello and Bryce Valley high schools.
This may prove to be a challenging season without the leadership of senior setter Emma Walters, who is out her final season with the Huskies because of injuries, and her teammate Francesca Gazani Bazan, who lead the state at one point for the most digs last season and transferred to another school. Several other seniors didn’t return, leaving only four to guide younger players.
“This just gives us some opportunities to learn and grow,” coach Melissa Guymon said. “We have eight freshmen and two sophomores on the sophomore team. There are three freshmen on JV and one freshman and a couple of sophomores on varsity. We don't have very many juniors, but these young players are rising up and doing their best.”
She said that the team bonded at camps over the summer.
“We talked a lot about what skills we need to get better at, but mostly our focus this year is trying to overcome our mindset. Our goal this year is to be accountable to ourselves and how we want to think about ourselves and about our team. We work every day on having more confidence in ourselves individually and as a team,” Guymon said.
She said that a life coach has helped girls identify their thoughts on what prevents them from having confidence as players, as students and as a team.
“The other day in practice we talked about saying affirmations such as, ‘I like myself.’ I know that sounds kind of cheesy but it really helps. It really helps them be OK with who they are. I feel once they can accept who they are and where they’re at, then we can accept that. We’re working on it because a lot of times we try to just ignore the negative thoughts that we have or try to force them to be positive and it’s just not authentic. So, we're trying to really accept where we’re actually at, and our weaknesses, and be a little bit vulnerable with each other so we can become stronger together mentally,” Guymon said.
She said that developing that mentality will translate to their game play.
“In that last game, we took a timeout, and asked, ‘How many of you are nervous?’ They're kind of sheepish and didn’t want to admit it because that isn’t what you want to feel when you’re in a tough, pressure match. Feeling that way doesn’t always help you perform your best. At another time out, one girl said she was embarrassed, and a few other players said they were too. I said, ‘Let’s not ignore that because that’s where we’re at.’ It can be however they’re feeling — disappointed, uncertain, fearful. We took 20 seconds to address that then, we moved forward, and I told them, ‘Go out and be the best you can be, not for your parents, not for me, not for even your teammates, but for yourselves. You care a lot about yourself so believe in yourself,’” Guymon said.
That approach to accepting themselves has already made an impact on the team.
“It has been a good positive thing for the girls. Half or even more than half of any battle is always mental, and I feel it’s the biggest thing for us. A lot of my team is so talented — on all my teams, varsity, JV and sophomore — and they have a lot of potential. What holds them back is those doubts they have in themselves. I know that happens to everyone, but we’re working on that,” Guymon said.
Although she acknowledged region play will be competitive, Guymon said the team didn’t set any goals “that have to do with wins or losses or any goal on how we want to do in region. Really, our main goal is just to overcome our mindset. We’re trying to be authentic and accept where were at and who we are so we can do our best and overcome any nervousness or fear or insecurity. That will help us win more games, and it’s really important for the girls to become who they are and can be,” she said.
Guymon said Hillcrest decided not to have a freshman team this year, partly because she wanted to bond as one team and build team camaraderie.
“I like having a bigger team where the girls get to know each other instead of having four separate teams,” she said. “It builds community when we have those three courts in the main gym and practice together and see each other every day instead of the freshmen being in a different gym. I really love the way that our team is going. We have a lot of positive vibes right now.”