The average softball game last about an hour and a half which is a long time for anyone to pay attention or to be expected to give their best effort.
All sports have this same problem so read on to find out how 2-time national champion football coach, Urban Meyer, got the best out of his players.
Paying close attention over a 2 hour period of time is really hard to do – for coaches and for players. Players, especially young players, struggle with their focus as there can be a million things distracting them. Most players either pay total attention, or don’t pay attention at all. The first choice is virtually impossible, and the second provides a significant barrier to performance.
While all sports struggle in some way with their players attention span and focus, softball is particularly difficult because of the huge amount of down time and the small amount of action. While on the other hand, a sport like football has a lot of action, so it seems it would be easy to keep a player’s attention, but that’s not actually the case.
Urban Meyer, one of the top college football coaches the game has ever known, believed that speed won football games. Since he knew it was unrealistic to ask his players to go full speed for 60 minutes (the length of a football game) he devised a very simple concept to get complete effort out of his players.
Urban Meyer asked each of his players to “give 4 to 6 seconds of relentless effort”. That’s it. He didn’t ask them to concentrate or pay attention for the whole game, or give 100% effort at all times (these are all commonly uttered phrases by coaches, yet they are extremely vague thoughts). On the other hand, asking for 4-6 seconds of relentless effort not only seems possible, but is also very specific. In that simple phrase, coach Meyer not only told his players how long he wanted them to give an effort – 4 to 6 seconds – but the type of effort he wanted – relentless. A football team runs about 65 plays in a game which can seem a little overwhelming, but not when you only have to give 4-6 seconds of relentless effort at a time (65 times).
So how do these numbers convert to softball? While we don’t count plays we do count outs and pitches. A 7 inning softball game lasts 21 outs and a pitcher will usually throw approximately 90 pitches. The average softball play lasts about 8 to 10 seconds so why can’t we modify Urban Meyer’s message and require our players to give “8-10 seconds of relentless effort”? Wouldn’t that make it much easier for our players to understand when to concentrate, for how long, and how hard to play? Of course we want a game-long effort out of our players but we’ve also got to make the effort seem possible. With 2 national championships with the Florida Gators on his resume, it seemed to work for Urban Meyer.
For more help with Effort, Concentration, and Practice try the following: