Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Thoughts for a New Year

As we head into a new decade, New Year's resolutions and goals are the first thing that come to my mind. A few years back I wrote an article about staying focused and goal-oriented even through tough times. It seems relevant to share right now, so I am going to post it below. At some point, I will get around to reflecting on my 2009 volleyball season, but I am not quite there yet. This is what I have to share for now:

November 15, 2006

Staying Focused and Positive When Things Get Tough by Angie Akers

One of the hardest things to do as a professional athlete is to stay focused and positive when faced with challenging situations. Unexpected situations arise, both on the court and off, which challenge our beliefs in ourselves and in others. In order to rise above these situations, it is essential to stay in the right frame of mind.

What is the right frame of mind, you may ask. The answer is in our thoughts. We are what we think we are. I have always known that my mind is my strongest ally and if I train my mind to think great big thoughts, I will accomplish great big things! While at first this can be a very difficult and daunting task, once you get the hang of it, it is really easy and fun.

I have asked many successful people, such as Gold Medalists in different sports, NFL football players, and millionaires what they thought of themselves before they achieved their greatness. Every single one of them said the same thing: They knew what they would accomplish long before they ever did. They developed a belief system in themselves that was so powerful that they saw it to fruition.

I decided to put this method to use. There was a time when I was very frustrated with where I was. I was engulfed in negative thoughts and emotions. I was stuck feeling sorry for myself for all sorts of situations that came about. I made a conscious decision that I was going to change all that.

The first time this came clear to me was when a younger beach volleyball partner left me to play with someone else. I was filled with anger, sadness, and self-pity. I imagined that I had the perfect partnership, when in reality I was trying to put a positive spin on a negative situation. It took a few months to see that this move was actually a blessing in disguise. I gained the confidence in my own abilities as a leader on the court and was also able to develop a more intellectual aspect of my game. The lesson that I learned from that particular situation helped me to become a better player and a better partner. It is all in how you look at it! Once I figured that out, I realized that when one door closes, another one opens. Now I am anxious to go find that door and see what is behind it. I imagine great things behind that door and when things get tough along the way, I think that those situations are the preparation for what is to come.

This whole process started within me by simply changing my thoughts. As soon as a negative thought entered my mind, I immediately changed it to a positive one. If anything, it just felt better. I immediately saw a difference in my performance on the court, as well. I became a much more consistent player, even though my athletic ability did not change. I remember my inner dialog used to consist of things like, “Don’t screw this up!” and “I hope I don’t make a mistake!” Now I think, “I am going to complete this play just how I did 1000 times in practice.” Instead of fearing “crunch-time”, I thrive on it! I visualize myself making the winning play.

There are times when I come up short. I may have imagined a different outcome than the one I got. Instead of feeling like a failure, which is easy to do, I search for the lesson in it. Every situation has a lesson to learn. You only fail when you do not find that lesson. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize, but it is always worth it. All it takes is patience, an open mind, and some confidence. Once this is realized, the ability to remain focused and stay positive becomes second nature.

It is important to recognize that an optimistic approach to life is much more enjoyable and fulfilling than a pessimistic one. There is nothing more satisfying than creating your own way out of a difficult situation. If it doesn’t work one time, I reevaluate what steps I took and I learn from them. I have found many tools for gaining this confidence and belief in myself through books, tapes, watching and talking to others, and self-searching.

Knowing this, what does it hurt to stay focused, positive, and dream big when faced with a challenging situation? As a wise friend of mine says, “Why not reach for the stars? You just might get the moon!” The moon is pretty darn good!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marseille, The Windy City!

France is amazingly beautiful. We arrived here on Saturday night after a week in Russia. The Mediterranean Sea is a gorgeous blue color and the coastline is hilly and dramatic. Beyond its beauty, the wind here is borderline insane. It MUST be the wind capital of the world.

When we arrived, we were told that the wind comes in three, six, and nine day cycles. We were at the very end of a three day cycle and there was no wind in the forecast. The first two days that we practiced it was not bad...just a normal “windy” day at Hermosa Beach.

Today is supposed to be our first match of the tournament. We were scheduled to play at 12 noon. We left our hotel and were on our way to the venue when we were told to turn back. The wind is howling and the venue is now dangerous because tents, sand, debris, and whatever else is flying everywhere. Good thing this tournament is stretched out over 6 days.

We have a meeting soon where it will be determined if play will resume today or not. It does not look good. The forecast is for more wind in the afternoon. So if that is the case, we are going shopping today!

We are sitting on edge ready to go for the next 2 hours and then we will know. Ugh.... the waiting!!! I am not sure that the next few days will be any better than today. You never can really predict Mother Nature here in the south of France.
Regardless, we will make the most of it. It has been a really fun roadtrip, although Tyra and I miss our husbands tremendously. We will return home soon enough. Just in time for Hermosa! We can't wait!

Angie Akers

Friday, July 17, 2009

Recap from Russia

Moscow was a pretty good event for us until we had to forfeit due to injury. Thank God it is nothing too serious. It definitely put a damper on the 5th place finish because we were playing well and that put an abrupt stop to it.

We finally won our pool by going undefeated. Our first match was against Australia. We were struggling, but managed to come from behind in the third and win the match. Then we played Germany, Banck/Gunther, and had another three set match. We lost the first set, but steadied out and gained control for the next two sets. The next day we finished pool play in the morning against Austria, Schwaiger/Schwaiger. We worked out our kinks by then and we were cruising.

(The site was right next to these beautiful fountains. People were swimming in them all day.)

That afternoon, the single elimination started. Because we won our pool, we had a first round bye. We watched the match that played into us, Czech Republic vs. Ukraine. Czech pulled out a three set win that could have gone either way. It was good for us because we had played Czech twice this year already. We know them and know what we have to do against them. We had the rest of the day off to rest.

Friday morning we came out really strong and won easily in two sets, 21-16, 21-11. We then were able to watch the end of the Brazil vs China match that played into our bracket. China was up 14-11 in the third, but we said “this is not over!” and what do you know... Julianna and Larissa side out for 12, block for 13, ace for 14. China then sides out up 15-14. It was back and forth until Julianna and Larissa won 21-19. It was very exciting and fun to watch.

We were ready to play them. We were battling in the first set when I landed on Julianna's foot under the net. I jammed my ankle straight down. It did not twist, so I thought it was fine. I tried to continue playing, but landing on it was not good. We called a medical timeout and I got it taped up, but the tape did not help. We made a decision to forfeit because the quality of play dropped tremendously and we did not want to risk making it any worse.

Julianna and Larissa offered their Physical Therapist to me, and since Kelly (our USA therapist) was not with us in Russia, I took them up on it. They were very kind and I got great treatment on it right away. The prognosis is a ligament sprain in the back of my ankle. It is a tiny one, and thankfully it does not hurt except to land on it. I am being ultra cautious and icing and resting as much as possible.

We have 4 days off now while we travel from Moscow to Marseille. That will help us quite a bit. We leave Moscow today and will be in France for a week. On to the next stop! Three down, two to go!
Angie Akers

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Red Square, Ballet, Bolshoi

I have been without internet for the last 4 days, which has seemed like an eternity over here. In that time, we have traveled from Gstaad to Moscow.

We had three days in Moscow before checking into the Main Draw Hotel, the Korston. We stayed at a Marriott near Red Square. It was great to sleep in really comfortable, spacious beds for a few nights. By arriving so early before the event, we were able to master the subway system. It is very difficult to get around without knowing the language or alphabet. After the first day, we had our path down and could get around with relative ease.

The subway system is extremely impressive. There are marble pillars, statues, and beautiful trimming all through the subway stations. Besides the extravagance of its appearance, we were also impressed by the depth of the railways. We took an escalator down for three minutes. I timed it because it was the longest escalator any of us had ever seen. We are at the half-way point in the picture.

We were early in Moscow, so we decided to truly get a Russian experience. First, we ate dinner at a Russian restaurant and had borscht (traditional Russian beet soup), wild boar with a port raspberry sauce and buckwheat with mushrooms and figs. It was delicious.

The restaurant itself was very neat inside. We walked down a set of stairs and it felt like we entered another time and place.

After dinner, we walked to Red Square and stood in amazement at the beauty of the buildings and St. Basil's Cathedral. Then we pulled out our cameras and started snapping away. It was late at night, so we could not go inside of the Cathedral. I can only imagine how impressive it is on the inside.

The next day, we ventured to the ballet to see Coppelia at the Bolshoi Theatre near Red Square. It was truly magical! It was such a unique, wonderful experience. We enjoyed a champagne before the show and then took our seats and watched the incredible dancers do their art. I loved every second of it. The costumes were beautiful, the theatre was spectacular, and everything about the experience was incredible.
Our three day Moscow journey has ended and now we are back in tournament mode. We begin play tomorrow. We will find out soon who will be in our pool and then we will begin our mental preparation. We will watch video and focus in on our performance. Back to work!
The Manhattan Beach Open starts this coming Friday and we are so bummed to be missing it. It is very difficult on us to miss AVP events. We love playing on the AVP tour, but this is something we must do to not only improve our play, but to get the experience of competing on the international level. Trust me, we are very excited to return home and start competing "AVP style" soon!

Gstaad Recap

The Gstaad Grand Slam was not a great tournament for us. We started off really strong, but finished with a disappointing 17th place. Our last match of pool play was really close with the German team, Holtwick/Semmler. Then because we lost, we finished 2nd place and we had to play again a few hours later. Only the 1st place teams in each pool got a first round bye in the single elimination.

We drew an Italian team that we knew very little about. Watching them in warm ups was about the only scouting we were able to do. It came down to ball control. We lacked it and they had it. It really is as simple as that.

Rather than sit in a beautiful place and stew in it, Canyon took us on a little adventure. We captured most of it in the video below. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back-Tracking to Stavanger, Touring the Fjords

Sorry to back-track a bit, but I finally have an internet connection that will allow me to download my videos. Here is our tour down the fjords. It was an amazing little boat trip and I hope you enjoy the "Tour Guide 101" video!

Gstaad - 2-0 in Pool Play, One More to Go!

Yesterday was the first day of play for the women in Gstaad. It rained sporadically throughout the day and was very cold. Thankfully, we did not have to play in rain. It stopped just in time for both of our matches.

Our first was against Mexico. We played a game and a half of great volleyball with a half a game of sub-par play. We won in two sets, but the second was much closer than it should have been. We were up 13-8 in the second then gave up quite a few points in a row. We figured out how to stop the bleeding and won 21-18.

Our next match was against Czech Republic. There was another break in the rain and out of nowhere was the biggest, brightest double rainbow we had ever seen. It was so vibrant and majestic. Everyone had cameras out snapping away, but we were playing so I could not take a picture. I will track one down and share it soon.

We played very well in this match. Both games were close until the technical timeout, but then we stepped it up and got a few aces, blocks, and transition put-aways which made them not so close.

Now we play against another German team, Holtwick/Semmler, at 3PM today. We need to win this match so that we get a first round bye into the single elimination part of the tournament. The winners of each pool get a first round bye which will guarantee at least a 9th place finish.

We will watch video this morning and get our game plan together. Then I need to do some laundry in our sink because the hotel charges $4 per article of clothing! NO THANKS!


Angie Akers