The season is coming to a close and the last tune-up tournaments are taking place before the big National events. It’s the perfect time to prepare your team for the end of season. In the counseling world we call the time when we prep our client’s to move-on from our care: Termination. Making it this far will have meant your team has gone through line-up, personnel, and position changes, potential coaching changes, an increase in skill level, and adjustments in offensive/defensive schemes to get to where you are today.
Termination conversations:
  • may require you to re-establish roles/responsibilities and be clear and direct with your team’s values as you train your team to peak during their final tournament.
  • are a great time to reflect on what the athletes and coaches have been working toward during the season
  • allow athletes time to acknowledge what they have learned thus far
  • and leave your athletes with a lasting impression of you and your work.

Further conversations with your athletes explore what it would look like if they contacted you after the final match, encourage them to stay in touch with each other during the summer break and throughout their school seasons, and reinforce the learning moments (aka nuggets of knowledge) that you have given them throughout the year¹!

About the nuggets of knowledge
Learning moments (nuggets of knowledge) are (1) what you noticed throughout the season and (2) what the players noticed about themselves. Let the athletes have an open discussion around what they learned about themselves as a player, teammate, competitor, etc. When you give them the space to explore their growth across the season, it gives their investment deeper meaning and allows them to “color” in their experience. These conversations also allow space for you to identify ways in which they can continue their growth, for example, exercises to further develop skill, steer them towards supplemental resources and even individual, group, and camp sessions during their off-season.
Emotional responses at the end…
Athletes may feel anxiety and/or fear around separating, so consider what leaving the group may mean to them as an athlete. What are their chances of continuing and making their high school teams? What positions may they be required to play during their next season? Is this their last season playing club volleyball because they are not playing at the college level? When an athlete has an emotional response, remember that it is about sitting with their emotion and listening more-so than highlighting problem-solving strategies and/or personal anecdotes for reassurance¹. Reassure their process by highlighting how much effort they put in to achieve wherever they are upon termination, that their team went through an entire process to be as good as they are, and that progress is a slow process!
Emotional reactions are appropriate when navigating termination because there is a lot of importance put on the season from these athletes. Players are often in shock upon termination and may state “oh I don’t care, I’m fine” because they genuinely do not know how to react in these situations. Focus on the experience of saying “good-bye”, the difficulties in setting this boundary for themselves, and how muddy it can be without this experience. The athletes who are “fine” are the ones that will need help defining their experience the most!
Squash the beef…
Lastly, it is unrealistic to assume that all conflict has been resolved by the end of the season. Spend some time helping athletes “squash the beef” within these last weeks before they go play in the largest tournament of their season! In an earlier article, we discussed the VCR method: Validate, Challenge, Respond, in order to help facilitate non-violent communication. Resolving conflict using this method will help athletes feel validated in their concerns and challenged to find solutions within the relationship in a short period of time. Athletes do not need to be the best of friends, but boundaries need to be established so that they have a working relationship that is positive for the performance of the group¹.
1. Corey, M.S., Corey, G., & Corey, Cindy (2013), Groups: Process and Practice (10th ed.) Publisher: Cengage Learning, ISBN: 978-1133945468

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About the Author

Rob Samp is the Mental Performance Coach for MOD Volleyball, a JVA member club in Chicago, Illinois. He currently holds the title of LPC within the State of Illinois, utilizing EMDR and Brainspotting to work with complex PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety around Cook County, IL.  Samp has nearly a decade of coaching experience at the junior and collegiate level. He is grateful to be continuing his pursuit for facilitating performance excellence within MOD, as well as the universities around the Chicagoland area. Click here for Samp’s contact information and website.