The mental aspect of sports training and competition cannot be underestimated. There have been plenty of instances where athletes who may have not been as physically gifted or as "in shape" as their competitors managed to thrust themselves into the fire, so to speak, and come out victorious.
This consistent pursuit of that mental edge is what differentiates great athletes from legends.
And there are a number of ways to chase that mental edge, some of which may look weird to sports fans. '90s basketball fans may recall Jeff Hornacek wiping his face before each free throw. And volleyball players in the Olympics appear to hug after every point they score. Why exactly do they do that?
Why do volleyball players hug after every point their team scores?
Is this part of some unwritten rule somewhere? Or is it about gaining that mental competitive edge? According to a Reddit thread, it's entirely the latter, and a lot of it has to do with the way that professional volleyball is played.
User AMadHammer posed the following question: "I am new to the sport and did not start playing until after college so I missed all of the formal training. Why do players celebrate every point? I don't see that happening in other sports with high point count (e.g. basketball) and I never saw the need to high-five every player on the court."
Several commenters provided their reasoning for the seemingly excessive amount of celebrations in volleyball and honestly, they make a lot of sense. Kes255 writes: "Volleyball is very much a 'momentum' game. Because only one point is scored at a time, if a team is down by six or seven points, there's no 'touchdown' to score and even it up quickly."
"Therefore it's important to keep in the rhythm with good defense and tough serving in order to keep the other team on the ropes and continue to score points," they continued. "Although it may seem excessive, it's a part of keeping the momentum. Same goes for timeouts: A team on the losing end of a point run may try to ice the server with a timeout in an attempt to get out of the current rotation and change the tide."
User Tankshell agreed with Kes's assessment. "I agree with momentum," they wrote. "A guy I know always says 'heads up' after points when we aren't doing well. When heads start hanging and everyone is quiet, it's really hard to recover from. You lose your energy and fire and get dejected. Keeping energized is an important part of the mind game and celebrating is part of that."
As other users write, there's another reason players hug after every point in volleyball.
And that's to intentionally get in the heads of players on the opposing team. By keeping your morale up, you show that you want it more, which might upset players on the other squad who don't have the mental fortitude for your constant celebration and team spirit, especially when they aren't playing well.
Volleyball is extremely fast-paced and if you can maintain an upward momentum in the face of a deficit, then there's a good chance you could potentially stage a comeback. But if your squad is comprised of an individual or two who can't keep it together, then staging a comeback may prove to be very difficult.
As Trippyimagez puts it: "One, it's fun, keeps your morale high, and generally helps you play better because you're focused more. Two, it pisses off some players on the other team very easily. Then they usually play worse."