Actor Woody Allen is purported to have once said, "80% of success in life is just showing up." While I'm not entirely sure what he meant by that I am fairly confident he was referring to the commitment of showing up every day and working hard; that success is a journey, not a destination.
I'm going to steal Woody's quote and modify it for this blog post: "80% of success in softball is being able to focus for just three seconds at a time." You see the game of fastpitch softball requires that your athlete be able to summon and concentrate her mental focus for three seconds just prior to each pitch in order to be successful.
Although mental focus and anticipation are required at all times your athlete is in the field, in the circle, on the bases or in the box in reality it is those precious three seconds that make all the difference in your athlete's performance. The athlete that can best execute 100% present moment focus on the task at hand, repeatedly during the game, will become an elite athlete.
Why is three the magic number? Let's face facts, kids today have a difficult time maintaining their attention for longer than a few seconds! More importantly three seconds gives your athlete adequate time, whether in the circle, the field, the bases or the box to prepare herself for the next pitch and play. However, during those critical three seconds your athlete MUST block out all distractions, all negative thoughts, all anxiety or day dreams and BRING IT! Her inability to do so will doom her to mediocrity.
Here's the great news: every young athlete can focus for three seconds. As a coach that is what I ask and expect of my players. Before and after the play look around, relax, space out a bit if you like...but be ready to flip that three second laser focus switch back on.
Now this is still not an easy task for players to succeed at. The game of fastpitch can be slow and monotonous at times, particularly during a long inning in the field. When I was patrolling centerfield in college those long innings would find me gazing up at the blue sky looking for the minutest of things to occupy my attention between pitches (I loved when a bird or flock of birds flew by!). But when the pitcher readied for the pitch I stepped into position on the balls of my feet and EXPECTED the ball would be hit to me every time.
Three seconds is all it takes to become the best she can be, and it's such a simple thing to do. Mental focus is definitely within your athlete's control, however it must be cultivated. Long, hot days with multiple games can cause the "three second rule" to be much harder to employ, but that is where your athlete's mental skills mastery comes in. Either she will or will not be able to engage in laser focus for three seconds each pitch/play. Believe me...the college scouts will be watching!
I hope you will encourage your athlete to begin using the "three second rule" in her games this weekend. Again her ability to execute this plan 100% may take time, but once she starts telling herself "three second rule" enough times her mind will comply and she will be well on her way to becoming a consistent peak performer!
Visit us at Winner's Edge Softball for plenty of free mental skills resources, including a sample chapter of John Kelly's new book, How She Thinks is How She Plays, to help your athlete become the very best she can be!