Skipping, chanting, and smiles never left the gym on Saturday, September the 9th at the Emory women’s volleyball game. The joyful spirit of the girls lasted for the entirety of the match that they won three sets to zero. Although the athletes’ performance impressed us, their sportsmanship fascinated us more. Not every sports group has members that support each other unconditionally. The girls’ ability to remain positive and show support for one another during their game helped lead them to victory.
When we arrived at the match against DeSales University, there was a concession stand set up next to the gym entrance. The snacks were all overpriced, and probably unnecessary considering the match did not last for very long. As we rounded the corner, there was a small bleacher set up on the gym floor, since the actual court was only in the very center of the west half of the gym. The crowd, neither extremely large or small, consisted of a few interested students and mostly parents who came to watch their daughters play. The crowd remained calm throughout the match, however, not much excitement was needed; the girls produced enough pep to last them through every set. Surprisingly the girls never seemed to have a shortage of energy and did not need to use timeouts like the other team. Smiles remained planted on both the players and coaches faces. Typically athletes remain straight-faced and look serious while they play. Even the girls on the other team looked this way and rarely smiled.
warm smiles on the players and coaches faces let us know that they actually enjoyed playing the game. Clearly, the girls found the game fun and they still appeared to have a passion for the sport. While winning obviously remained their objective, they made sure to enjoy the entire process. This happiness and pure love of the game allowed them to stay positive and cheer each other on that afternoon.
After the first set, the teams switched sides. This almost seemed to have an effect on the girls’ performance because they started to fall behind. Even while the girls were losing, the coach was placid and the girls were smiling. Their attitude is undoubtedly why they were able to easily rally and win the second set. Again, at the start of the third set, Emory dropped some points, but the team found its footing and pulled off the three to zero sweep. No setback ever seemed to faze them. They remained cheerful and positive until they eventually lead the game like they knew they would.
Every team has some form of bond between players that affects the way they interact and play together. On Emory’s team, the girls have a noticeably strong bond. No matter what happened, the girls always appeared to have a united front. Instead of cheering for certain players, the whole group on the court received recognition. Unlike the players from the other team, even when a girl made a serve that did not make it over the net or hit the ball out of bounds, the girls remained supportive of one another.
The girls frequently had group hugs and shared reassuring smiles to comfort each other throughout the game. We could tell that the team members had a very close relationship just by the way they interacted on the court. Even off the court, the girls typically do things together probably as a result of all the time they spend practicing and bonding. This relationship allows them to communicate and play collectively. The girls display trust for each other and belief in the abilities of the team. Studies show that the level of trust and time spent together have a significant impact on team performance. Team members that trust each other perform better because they can work more effectively together (Elsass 137). When the other team successfully scored, the girls still smiled and cheered each other on because they knew that they had the ability to move past the setback and win the game. Although several girls did stand out as star players, the game did not revolve around them. Each girl playing was given an opportunity to contribute to the success of the team. Emory’s team honestly looks like a huge group of best friends. Friendship and their great spirit lead them to victory.
At the end of the tournament, the girls walked away undefeated. Emory won every game three sets to zero in the tournament.
It is worth noting that while all these three aspects of the team led them to victory, the skill set of the girls played arguably the most significant part in leading them to victory. Currently, the team is ranked fifth overall in the NCAA Division III category, previously being ranked second. They have made it to the final four five times, they won the national tournament in 2008, and they have seven UAA championships. In fact, the girls have only lost one game this season. We wanted to look beyond their skills to determine what makes them so successful. Virtually every team has amazing players, but some teams have unique qualities that set them apart from the rest of the crowd. What sets Emory apart and gives them a competitive edge are these three qualities that allow them to work harder and to work more efficient collectively.
Tatiana was able to get in touch with freshman Murphy Powell to ask her about her experiences with the game and with her team:
Tatiana: How would you describe the crowd’s energy level at the DeSales match? How did their energy level affect (or not affect) your playing?
Murphy: The crowd’s energy level during the match vs DeSales this past Saturday was pretty good because I’ve been told the bleachers haven’t been that full in a long time. The crowd’s cheering was a motivation bonus added to our own cheering so it affected our play positively.
Tatiana: Was there a specific goal you had set for the DeSales match?
Murphy: We wanted to keep them from scoring more than 15 points per set (which we were able to do for the 25-12 set but not for the 25-16 and 25-19 sets) and always have more energy than they did, in which I think we did a good job of.
Tatiana: How well did your team play again DeSales University? Do you consider it a good/bad/average game for your team?
Murphy: It was an average game for our team because we beat them by a hefty amount, had an awesome passing game, but also missed a lot of serves and hit a lot of balls out when attacking.
Tatiana: What is the dynamic between you and your teammates during a game?
Murphy: We all keep each other hype no matter what the score is and we all have positive attitudes throughout warmups and in games.
Tatiana: Are you and your teammates close? And how does this affect your playing?
Murphy: My teammates and I are very close – it’s like a family. This affects our playing because we play harder when we want to play well and win for our “family”.
Tatiana: What is your goal for the season?
Murphy: Our goal for the season is to be national champions!
Watching the Emory Women’s Volleyball Team play was very entertaining. While it is always fun to cheer for the winning team, it is clear that our squad has something special. Their non-stop energy made the game enjoyable for themselves, the fans, and even the other team to an extent. It is very easy to see Emory Women’s Volleyball going to the national finals, and we think they will win this year.
Priscilla Elsass. “Trust and Team Performance in NCAA Basketball.” The Academy of Management Executive (1993-2005), vol. 15, no. 3, 2001, pp. 137–138. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4165768.
[Emory Volleyball Girls High-Fiving]. [image]. (n.d). [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.evbcvolleyball.com/Default.aspx?tabid=25272
[Emory Volleyball Girls Holding Hands in Air]. [image] (n.d.). [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.evbcvolleyball.com/Default.aspx?tabid=25274
[Emory Volleyball Coach]. [image]. (n.d). [Photograpgh]. Retrieved from http://www.emoryathletics.com/sports/wvball/index
By: Faith Muyoyo, Josh Maisel, and Tatiana Bennett