Positivity Beyond the Game
By Sarah Methuselah
For many, kindness is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about the wild world of college athletics. More commonly the words cutthroat, competitive, or gritty might top the list.
The usual mindset during a high-pressure and fast-paced game is to win. This drive to win is true for student athletes and coaches at the University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley, CO. In the renowned Butler-Hancock Athletic Center, like-minded hardworking individuals and teams are preparing for their upcoming seasons. One coach, in particular, refuses to let the competitive nature of the game take away from her positive outlook both on and off the court.
UNC is home of the bears, and Head Volleyball Coach Lyndsey Oates has been a part of the bear family since 2005. Since taking the position, Oates has lead the women’s volleyball team to many victorious seasons.
Northern Colorado has been a longtime home for Oates, who grew up in the small town of Eaton, CO, just 15 minutes away from the local university. She played volleyball at Louisiana State University, and moved back to the area after her father’s death. Oates grew up watching and playing in volleyball camps at UNC. She has brought her life full-circle by taking on the position of head coach of the women’s volleyball team.
As head coach, Oates works hard to make sure the UNC volleyball team performs. During practices and games, Oates continually gives constructive criticism to her players, yet recognizes her attitude while coaching can greatly impact the team. Oates said she maintains a positive and uplifting outlook because research shows that athletes perform better when backed by positive reinforcement. “The performance is going to be better if I’m positive. So even if I don’t feel like being positive, when I’m frustrated with how we’re playing or I feel like I want to be negative, that’s not what’s in the best interest of the team. I’m not going to get the best performance out of them if I’m negative,” Oates said.
The positivity Oates feels on a personal level extends to both her team, and to her work environment. “That’s one of the things I like about working athletics is that it is a positive environment. It’s like-minded, competitive people who want to be a part of a team. The culture in the athletic department is great,” Oates said. “You don’t see laziness. You don’t see a lot selfishness.”
Oates wishes to see a world in which people work harder to be selfless. Oates acknowledged that it is easy for people to be consumed by their own world and walk past someone who is in need. In Oates’s ideal world, she envisions a place where people share their resources in order to help care for the needs of others.
Oates admitted that in the sports world, the word kindness is not often used. Many coaches like Oates, try to bring out the competitive spirit of their athletes. In the world of competitive volleyball, Oates does not necessarily have a burning desire for opposing coaches and teams to regard her UNC volleyball team as kind and gracious. Yet, she does hope other athletes and students regard her players as kind. To help show this, Oates lives by the golden rule. Oates works hard to remind her players of the importance of treating all people with kindness. “We do a lot of reminders as a program of ‘How are we treating others?’” Oates said. “So I think kindness is ‘Are you treating others how you would want to be treated?’ The golden rule.”
Both on and off the court, Oates keeps her spirits energized and is guided by her faith. Her faith has helped her cultivate deeper relationships and connections with some of her players. Beyond coaching, Oates said she hopes her players will grow in many different aspects of their lives during their time at UNC. She hopes the game of volleyball will teach players how to create a balanced life and how to serve others by being a part of the team. Oates also hopes that the game will give her players confidence in all aspects of their lives.
Oates gets an opportunity to see the growth and change in her past players when many return each season for the Alumni Match. “My favorite part of coaching is when I see the players five or ten years afterwards, honestly,” Oates said. “And see how they have used their time here at UNC during those four years, and are better because of it. Better wives, better mothers, better in the workforce because they were volleyball players.” Her positive coaching style has changed not only the game of volleyball at UNC, but the individual lives of her players.