As mere mortals, we often tend to think that medalists get it all and that the fame and fortune and the adoration of the crowd somehow completes them. Matt Anderson, an Olympic bronze medal volleyball player who is considered one of the best in the world in his field, knows that's not always the case and is here to tell you that anyone can suffer from self-doubt, depression, or depression . and fear even when things look fine and fine to the outsider.
M&F caught up with Matt Anderson for an open and bold discussion about the psychological challenges he's faced in his stellar career, and we got some valuable advice that everyone, no matter what level in the sport, does the same can learn lessons like him .
Matt Anderson is on the Team USA men's indoor volleyball roster. He is a three-time Olympian and won a bronze medal at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Previously, Anderson was the 2015 World Champion and has also won multiple CEV Championship League finals throughout his career.
Success came relatively quickly for Anderson, who was scouted for the US men's national team while at West Seneca West Senior High School in upstate New York. He trained hard and by the time he reached his sophomore year, Matt Anderson had received a professional offer and signed with the Hyundai Capital Skywalkers in the Korean League. What followed was a whirlwind of intense gaming and travel. As well as living in South Korea, he also played in Italy for some time before volleying the ball in Russia.
It all sounds like the career of an athlete with the world at their feet, and for the most part it's true, but just like the rest of us; Negative thoughts can jeopardize our chances of reaching our full potential. He was also named Russian League MVP after moving to Russia, where his club won a bronze medal at the championship there, but despite all those accomplishments, 2014 proved to be a difficult year, as Matt Anderson felt at the time he had underperformed. This would be the year the player had to hit the brakes for mental reasons.
"I could feel the pressure on me," says Anderson. "I was really the all-star of the team and probably played my best volleyball back then," he says afterwards. But back-to-back competitions and constant travel since her first start with Team USA in 2009 finally took their toll. "I went to the gym and just thought about home," he recalls.
When Anderson finally got home, he admits he was embarrassed because he didn't feel he had given it his all on the pitch. Those destructive feelings, coupled with the fact that he was still trying to process his father's death in 2010, left the player with a lot to unpack and needed some time and space to finally do the work for the sake of his own wellbeing to do.
Luckily, after several weeks of digging deep within himself, Anderson was back on the pitch before the end of the same year he left him, 2014, and while he's still working on his sanity to this day, the popular player is back to his medal high. Here are three key tips to help Anderson keep his head in the game:
1. Making mistakes is part of the process
A seasoned athlete has to deal with the mistakes and harsh reality of defeat, but fortunately these negative aspects can be turned into positive ones. “Even with the highest accolades as a player, I still struggle with my confidence,” says Anderson. "I think that's part of my perfectionist mindset and I always focus on what I did wrong rather than what I did right." The Olympian says being a successful volleyball player gives him confidence when he has one enters room. So when things aren't going well on the pitch, he takes it hard and that affects his identity as a person. But he also learned strategies for dealing with sporting losses. Anderson says that with every loss comes wisdom and a chance to stop, reflect, and gather information about where things went wrong so he doesn't make the same mistakes again.
2. Be consistent by embracing change
Athletes talk all the time about keeping their training consistent and that means sticking to an ironclad routine, but no matter who we are, aging will bring changes. w 36, with a wife and two children (aged three and one), he knows his day can no longer revolve around his own needs. Because of this, he has adjusted his schedule to get the best out of both sport and family.
Anderson and other members of his team with the same duties, who are currently training for the Paris 2024 Olympics, will be supported by their coaches to meet the diverse time demands. This allows players to start training with the energy and motivation needed to perform at their best without feeling pressured to have more time with their families.
"Our coaching staff was there and gave us a big workout (every day) so that the guys who have families can be with them," Anderson shares. This represents a break from the tradition where players would previously have completed two training sessions per day.
Meanwhile, thanks to the culture of openness to change, the champion volleyball player is fully committed and still puts in 100% of the work required. Anderson explains to M&F that he's on the court around 9am, but before that he hits the gym at 7.30am for a really good warm-up and any stretching and mobility exercises that might be needed to set him up for the day . He leaves the court around 12pm but returns to the gym for at least another hour to lift weights. Embracing change is a great way to develop realistic routines that can be followed over the long term. "I also try to schedule a few date nights with my wife from time to time," says the well-balanced athlete.
3. Don't Overthink (Protect Your Circle)
A perfectionist and overthinker, Anderson, like many of us, can fall victim to overthinking. If we don't manage to just "take off," our constant self-examination can lead to micro-adjustments that affect our performance. This is something Anderson has struggled with in the past and he has a technique brought to him by the late, great sports psychologist Dr. Ken Ravizza and which may prove useful.
"He talked to (mental) images a lot," says Anderson, who says that Ravizza spoke of the field as a circle and that excessive thinking creates a distracting mound within the circle. Anderson goes on to explain that with this mental exercise you can think too much whenever you are outside the circle, but once you are in the circle you need to keep those unnecessary thoughts out where they belong. "Don't get your shit in the circle," Ravizza told Anderson. It was a light-hearted way of making an important point and it still helps the player immensely to this day. Maybe these tips could be useful for you too.