All the practices, the conditioning, the film sessions, etc., those play only a part in the preparation for the Dayton Flyers volleyball program.
Senior outside hitter Lauren Bruns has come a long way in improving her skills during her career, but in an interview Wednesday at the Cronin Center, she also described how she has made strides on the mental side of the game thanks to Krista Horsmon, the team’s leadership and mental training coach.
Krista, head coach Tim Horsmon’s wife, takes the team through breathing exercises in the team room. They spend three to four minutes focusing on how they want to improve. Then after matches, players write three things they did well and three things they need to work on for the next match.
“You could have had a terrible game,” Bruns said, “but you also need to focus on the things you did well so you’re not so hard on yourself. I would say I’m very hard on myself and like to hold myself to high standards. Sometimes it’s hard to think, ‘Did I even do anything good in that practice or that game?’”
The answer to that is an overwhelming yes. Bruns, who played for state championship volleyball and basketball teams at Versailles High School, has helped lead Dayton to an 11-4 record in her final season and a 2-0 start in the Atlantic 10 Conference entering home games Friday against Davidson and Sunday against Virginia Commonwealth. She has won the conference player of the week award four times in the last five weeks.
Bruns leads the A-10 and ranks 18th in the nation with 4.45 kills per set.
“She’s highly competitive,” Tim Horsmon said. “The really cool thing about Bruns is through her four years, from where she started to where she is, every year she’s grown. She just keeps getting better. I don’t know if every four- or five-year kid can say that. She’s learned mentally and emotionally. She has such a feel for the game and how to score. She’s as probably as talented in that position as I’ve ever coached in my 20 years. There are very few balls that are sent to her right now that we don’t think she’s probably going to kill. She’s really carried us through a lot of big moments and been a stalwart and go-to kid for us.”
With three freshmen receiving major playing time for the Flyers, Bruns has embraced a leadership role as well.
“Pretty much I tell them to take it one step at a time and don’t be overwhelmed,” Bruns said. “We know they’re freshmen. They’re not going to play perfect. Volleyball is a game of mistakes. At the beginning of the year, I don’t think you would say they were uncomfortable, but they were just on edge all the time, thinking ‘If I make a mistake, what’s going to happen?’ It’s about bringing it in and having a family aspect of we’ve got your back. If you make an error, someone’s going to pick you up afterward, and it’s not going to be the end of the world by any means.”
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