Narrow the Focus
I remember reading an article back when I was coaching football receivers regarding focus. The article had two stories. The first story was about Steve Largent. Steve, at the time, 1989, led the NFL for touchdown catches above notable receivers like Jerry Rice. Steve was asked how he had done this in spite of the fact that self-admittedly he was not the speed or size athlete like Jerry Rice and the others. He said it was an issue of focus. He told the story of how, while in high school, he would put a dot on the ends of a football during summer practice. His focus was on catching the “dot” not the ball. Once the season started the dots came off and the ball looked like a pumpkin!
The second story was in regard to Roberto Clemente. Roberto played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. One winter he went home to Puerto Rico and paid the neighborhood kids to pitch to him. The funny thing is they were not pitching baseballs. They were pitching bottle caps! If you have ever thrown a bottle cap you remember that they zig and zag and, of course, are incredibly small! He did this all winter before he returned to spring training for the next season. That season he went on to win the league batting title!
The moral of the story is this: narrowing the focus makes us concentrate on the things that matter. I wonder what that is for your sport? I wonder if you picked one statistic that you felt like makes a huge difference and made the players accountable to it. I once asked our basketball coaches to look at their scorebook and see if their free throw percentage was 80% how many more games would they have won? The answer was always 2-5 games. 2-5 games! Just for focusing on free points, I mean throws. I also told them to start counting ALL free throws (1 and 1) as 2 shots even if they missed the first one.
It is amazing what can be done when we narrow the game down to focusing on certain simple things. Free throws, unforced errors, out-of-the-block times. I would ask you to consider picking a stat and get your team to set a goal. If you do, let me know what it is and let’s see how it goes!