When I was 12 years old, I started to play club volleyball. I enjoyed it and became good enough to be recruited to play for an NCAA division 1 university. For the past two years, I’ve been coaching and now see the other side of the game. Now having been a part of this agency for almost three years, I’ve realized these 5 strategies have not only helped me with volleyball, but have also prepared me for my career.

Alia Side

#1 Set goals and appropriate expectations.

My coaches had always encouraged us to set both team and individual goals. But they also taught the components of a goal and how to set achievable goals. When I work on a project, the three components—requirements, time, and money—are exactly the same as for goals: What does the team want to achieve, how do we manage our time and stay on task, and how much effort will it take.

#2 Make good communication a priority.

In volleyball, communication is key. Without communication, lots of errors can occur—a ball drops between players who think the other players will take it, or players crash into each other, thinking it’s their ball to pass. In the workplace, effective communication is always required—internally with coworkers but also with clients. Without that communication, work effort could be misdirected, redundant, or not completed.

#3 Trust and highlight strengths of your teammates.

Volleyball, like most team sports, has unique roles for every player. My role, because of my lack of height, was a purely defensive one. I was responsible for passing to the setter who, in turn, set the ball for the hitters. They had to trust me to be in the right position and be ready for the opponents’ attack. I trusted them to have the skills to be able to complete a winning attack. After a good play, we all enjoyed giving each other compliments on the winning rally but also encouraged each other after losing one.

As an account manager at Contrast DesignWorks, I gather inquiries, comments, and feedback from the client and pass those onto the creatives so they can fulfill the client’s requests. They have to trust that I heard the client’s feedback correctly but to also set the appropriate expectations. I trust and have confidence in them to deliver what the client wants and to even exceed expectations.

#4 Get creative.

If you’re down in a match of volleyball, and are trying to figure out how to outscore the opponent, you have to think strategy and sometimes you just have to “get creative.” Some very good teams win in unconventional ways, especially in the game of volleyball and finding a solution to the problem is not always the most straightforward. In volleyball, a “scrappy” team that doesn’t let a single ball hit the ground can outscore a team purely because of their defense. They find a way to win with the team skills they have. Conventionally, teams will receive/pass the ball, set it, and their strongest hitter will attack, winning the rally offensively. In the workplace, you’re solving problems all the time and sometimes they’re pretty easy and other times not so much. One of the most enjoyable aspects of being at Contrast is working with very creative people. We have the control and processes for how jobs flow but what happens within those processes is where creativity is evident. We are given budgets and assets from clients and are asked to make the best of what they have and make sense of it, and at times it’s not always a simple fix. Sometimes we need to simply follow prescriptive direction, and sometimes we need to get “scrappy” and come up with new solutions that meet their creative and budgetary goals.

#5 Continually grow and learn.

I started out as a student of the game and grew stronger and smarter, not only with my volleyball technique but also with strategy. Playing D1 volleyball, and now coaching, has shown me there’s always something new to learn and room to improve. One skill that I’ve developed over time as a coach is the ability to recognize that everyone has different talents—so players may pick up certain skills quickly while others need more time. It takes patience and flexibility to help keep everyone learning together as a team. I had a similar experience starting at Contrast DesignWorks as an intern. I needed patience with myself as I discovered that some elements of my job came naturally and others needed a little more practice. Mentoring from my managers and getting sound advice from my veteran teammates has given me the tools and confidence to perform my duties well.

I find that playing and coaching sports helps with not only exercising your arms or legs, but it also exercises the mind in so many ways. And learning and honing skills is a lifelong process—all applicable in my role as an account manager.

P.S. A Contrast DesignWorks volleyball scrimmage is in the works! Stay tuned! 😉

My very last match of my collegiate career

Match vs. Long Beach State. Ace ace baby! #ThePyramid

Match vs. Long Beach State

My very last match of my collegiate career. Matadors FTW! #GoMatadors

Volley ball team

January 2018 – My very first tournament win as a head coach! @vision.vbc