Jenae Alderson 5’8 (Average D1 Volleyball Player is 6’1)
Isaiah Thomas, Kirby Puckett, Lionel Messi, Muggsy Bogues, Doug Flutie, Barry Sanders, and many others share one physical trait; they are all under 6’0”. There is a widespread stigma in sports that the taller an athlete is, the better they could potentially be. The previously six named listed – along with many others and others to come – ignored the stereotypes and wrote their own story when it came to the sports they chose to play; as long as there is hard work, heart, and confidence, it does not matter the height.
Undersized athletes do many things but come up short. They bring many aspects to the game that others fail to realize. For instance, Isaiah Thomas emphasizes ball handling and footwork to make-up for his height difference. These skills can then be translated to other players to make them better; mainly for other up and coming height challenged athletes. However, how does one go about becoming one of the greatest at an already height dominated sports world? Especially during the recruitment process! Well here are a couple of ways to stand out.
Every sport has some spot that is open for a shorter athlete – even if a coach doesn’t realize it yet. For example, in basketball, a point-guard – although the position has been requiring taller people as of lately – can be an option for shorter athletes. Just like there are benefits to being tall, there are benefits to being short. One advantage is speed. Now, not all taller people are slow, and not all shorter people are fast, but being the one that is can’t hurt! Being quick is a significant advantage and being light on the feet is one way that can help – hence a shorter person’s advance. However, speed is not everyone’s strong suit, but do not fear, there are still other tips and tricks!
Eye-level can sometimes be a challenge to a shorter athlete. However, if looked at differently, (literally) it could prove to be a key weapon! If everyone is looking at a 6’0” or above in eye-level, everyone is sharing the same information; what the opposing team‘s eyes are looking at, what shoulder is leaning, etc. Nevertheless, if blessed with a shorter height, a different world is opened up. What are the players’ feet attempting to do? Where are the players’ hips doing? These are the new questions that are available. However, good eyesight and even better instincts are required for this type of leg up. However, if that is not in the repertoire, there are yet other options.
Hops; the universal word for people with the ability to jump out of this world. That option would be most ideal when trying to stand out to a coach but, not all dreams are a reality. However, people with “hops” should always utilize such a skill to their advantage – help out the image of the “shorter people”. It is the equalizer between short and tall athletes.
Aside from physical advantages, mental advantages can be just as critical. Knowledge is something that all athletes have access to. As a shorter athlete, however, knowing more than the opponent is something that can stand out when on the field, court, sand, etc. Knowing the tendencies of the opponent can frustrate and throw them off their game. No one is good when he or she has a bad game, that is just facts. So, if throwing someone off their game means hitting the books and watching film for a couple more hours, would that not be the best feeling in the world? Try it out! Nothing to lose yet everything to gain. Not height wise though.
Hard work combined with a great work ethic always gets somewhere. Never underestimate the power of hustle and heart. Coaches see which players are truly about the game and will do whatever it takes to win. Attitude and confidence can get an “undersized” athlete places that no one expected them. As long as the mindset is correct and no doubt creeps its ugly head, the sky’s the limit!
However, throughout the journey, always stay coachable and humble. Coaches know what they are looking for and can mold any player – any player who wants to be molded – into the athlete they are searching for. Be that athlete. Always ask to do more. Always ask, “how can I improve my game”. Always be the last one in and the last one out of any drill, game, or workout. These are things that get the recruiting world chattering. Coaches talk, whether it be about good or bad information. Being apart of the good side of that talk would be ideal.
One of the last vital factors goes without being said. This tip should always be apart of the previous tips; be original and be a teammate. Being something that no one has seen before is what gets people talking. Being someone that everyone admires helps them remember. Being short and exceptional already puts shorter athletes at an advantage. Bringing a new type of style to the table that people can bring a “wow” factor to it? That will opens the eyes of coaches. Bringing that style in with a likable athlete? That lands the college.
Stay opened minded. Stay coachable. Stay hungry.
Shorter athletes have to continue to eat, that is the only way they know how to grow.