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PSU volleyball team uses book club to bond off-court

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many university sports had to adjust season and training schedules. During such uncertain times, PSU head volleyball coach Jen Gomez wanted to teach her team how to navigate adversity by starting a book club. 

The Pittsburg State University volleyball team has been meeting every Monday for a book club over the book “Mind Gym” by Gary Mack. 

“…We weren’t able to do a lot of practicing, we weren’t able to come and get everyone together to do a lot of volleyball type things, so we just thought about something that we can do where we meet every week and we can still kind of focus on still tying something into volleyball,” Gomez said. 

Gomez had already read the book, which focuses on mental training both in sports and life, and thought it was relevant to the team’s current situation. 

“We just felt that this was important, and this was the perfect time to do it because of everything that had happened with COVID and there’s a lot of stress and mental anxiety and a lot of problems that come with that itself, so… the timing was right, and we felt it would be a great thing for our team to participate in,” Gomez said. “It really has a lot of great things. It’s compared to athletic situations, but I also think our kids are getting a lot of things they can apply to in life as well… you can train your body all you want but not a lot of people spend time training their mind as far as the mental side of the game or just the mental side of life really and how you can take a situation, and how you  view it, and how you process and approach it and those types of things matter.” 

The book club started over Zoom when there were limitations on in-person meetings but has moved to face-to-face meetings with the whole team. The whole team reads the assigned chapters of the book before the meeting, and each week two players lead the discussion. 

“…that’s been really good since that way we get everyone involved and everybody reads it, and everybody’s prepared before,” Gomez said.  

Marissa Bates, junior in marketing, is part of the volleyball team and believes the book teaches important lessons. 

“I think the book club does a really good job of preparing us mentally it’s not all about physically,” Bates said. “I think my biggest takeaway is just to be able to see where I’m at mentally, where I can improve and where my teammates are at as well. We need to be able to really prepare ourselves for what’s to come, whether that be on the court or off the court.” 

In addition to learning life lessons as individuals, the book club has helped strengthen the bond of the volleyball team as a whole. 

“It’s been really nice coming together to talk about it and talking about things, because I think that’s really helped us grow closer together as a team,” said team member Clair Sandvig, junior in elementary education. “It starts in the gym as a team, but outside helps you be super comfortable together and helps that connection be stronger. With us discussing different things in our lives that relate to this book I think it’s a way we can hold each other accountable but also help each other with different hard things that we may go through.” 

The book club will last through the first week of November, and Gomez hopes that by the end of the group that the team will have learned how to adjust to adversity. 

“That’s the biggest thing I want them to come out of it with is understanding adversity is part of life and it’s going to be there… but that you can get through something and the way you look at it and how you decide to handle that is going to be the… main factor,” Gomez said. “And also, ways of coping, how do we stay positive in times of stress, how do we overcome this adversity.”  

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