Monday, May 21

The Game Day Report Card

Sport mimics life certainly. For younger athletes sport also mimics school in so many ways. One way is in the comparison of report cards. In academics the student who comes to class most prepared for an exam will likely receive a high score for their test performance.

Likewise in softball the athlete that shows up on Game Day most prepared has a much greater likelihood of achieving a high level of performance success on the field.

Both the exam in school and competition on the diamond will equate to a report card, a progress report of sorts, to assess where student or athlete is in terms of subject/sport mastery.

So now that I have made that correlation let's dig a little deeper into the softball Game Day report card, and what determines an "A," to "F" grade.

Like any subject in school an athlete must spend the required time to learn how to perform their best on Game Day. This effort must include both physical and mental preparation. An athlete preparing only on their physical game (and not their mental game) would be akin to a student studying only the text book and never going to class to hear the teacher's lecture and taking appropriate class notes. Ultimately the student would not be prepared enough to excel in the class and would likely receive less than an "A" grade.

Game Day Success = Proper Physical Preparation + Proper Mental Preparation

Here is what your athlete's Game Day report card might look like if she fell into the green zone ("A" grade), yellow zone ("C" grade), or red zone ("F" grade):
 



With extraordinary physical and mental preparation your athlete has the right to, and will likely achieve, consistent and sustained Game Day success found in the "green zone" and even domination...an "A" grade!

With a lower level of preparation and commitment to being her best your athlete will fall into the "yellow zone" or "red zone" with the appropriate Game Day results and grades.

In short the game of fastpitch softball is just too hard to take the ultimate physical and mental preparation necessary for granted. There is no question that there are days and moments when the game will "get" your athlete. The only question is how frequently, and how well she will bounce back from that Game Day adversity.

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Bouncing back from the inevitable mistakes and adversity is far easier if your athlete can frame her Game Day performance in terms of a report card; meaning, like school, a report card (or progress report) tells student and parent the weaknesses and areas that need improvement to improve the student's grade.

Likewise the "game" will always give your athlete a daily report card on the areas she is both strongest and weakest in, and areas she needs to work on to improve her Game Day grade. Game Day failure or adversity always offers within it a tremendous opportunity to go back to practice, motivated by the challenge of turning a weakness into a strength!

The achievement of consistent and sustained Game Day success is difficult but possible for every athlete if she is willing to put forth the effort to prepare both her mind and body for the rigors of the game.

So after your athlete's next game encourage her to give herself a report card on her performance, to be honest about what the game told her she needs to work on, and to take her next step on the ladder of softball mastery. Hopefully she will look at the process as a challenge and opportunity as she continues to show up on Game Day in the "green zone" eager to get another Game Day "A."

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Monday, May 7

Why Does Your Athlete Play the Game?

Why does your athlete play the game?

Seems like a simple question, doesn't it? And yet my guess is that few teenaged athletes ever ask themselves that question today, yet they sweat and toil 10-12 months each year to master their sport with hopes of glory.

It all starts with an honest assessment of your athlete's motivation and desire  for playing their game. For without the proper motivation your athlete will not possess the burning desire necessary to do what it takes to elevate their game so he or she can dominate on game day and stand out from the crowd.

Your athlete's sport is likely a difficult game that will only get more competitive the older he or she gets.

As a coach it baffles me when kids have been taught to do something a certain way in practice again and again, yet come game day they completely forget how to do it. How can that be?

I have come to the realization that it all comes down to an athlete's motivation and desire. How bad do they want the success they work so hard for?

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Today's adolescent athlete is different than I and my peers were a few decades ago. Our motivation for playing was all ours, it was pure, and we worked our butts off to be the very best because we had a burning desire to succeed, to play in college or the pros. We didn't know any other way.

Girls Softball All Star GameToday's athlete needs to find out why he or she plays the game, hopefully for more than just pleasing mom or dad, and it all starts with determining, specifically, what motivates them.

So let's start with understanding a little about motivation. There are two types of motivation:

Intrinsic Motivation - a personal interest or enjoyment in performing an activity or task (internal).

Extrinsic Motivation - the performance of an activity for the sake of attaining a specific result or incentive (external).  

If your athlete loves the game and would play it 24/7 if they could he or she has sufficient "intrinsic" motivation to be great.

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If your athlete doesn't really love the game he or she needs to attach their daily sports effort to specific "extrinsic" motivations, whether it's an iPhone, professional contract or just the drive to be the best.

I used the example in my team training of "what if your parent offered you a new iPhone if you got an "A" in Geometry? Would that motivate you to get an "A" in the class?"

Most all of the 35 teenaged softball players I was speaking to agreed that a new iPhone was sufficient motivation to work hard to get the "A."

The great connector between motivation and achievement are goals. Goals quantify the desired outcome or incentive and create a specific calculable process for their attainment.

Without clearly defined intrinsic or extrinsic motivations and a clearly defined path to get there (goals) your athlete will not possess the desire and overall blueprint to get where he or she wants to go with their sport.  

On those long, hot, exhausting days when your athlete wonders if it's all worth it remind them of their goals, the incentives and rewards they decided they wanted out of playing the game. 

Their constant connection as to why they play the game will serve to get them through the toughest of times and propel them forward to truly being the very best they can be. 

My suggestion is to take the time to sit down and have a discussion about motivation, desire and goals with your athlete and get them laser focused on why they play the game.

It might just make all the difference in the world!

Thanks for reading!


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