There are countless books, posts, videos, podcasts, and talks around coaching. While I have read, watched, and listened to a number of them and there are some consistent themes in all of the ones I have consumed. One of those themes, arguably the most important, is the emphasis on attitude and effort. What’s even more interesting is how often those two are mentioned together. I believe for an athlete to be the best they can be both on and off the field, attitude and effort are mutually inclusive.
We can all recognize a good or bad attitude. Actions are a tell-tell sign of which a player is portraying at any given moment. From the time I started coaching, I have always advocated to my players that the ones who have the best attitude will always be at the top of the list for going to the field first. They will always be the ones that other teammates will look up to, especially when the game is not going in their favor. In some ways, they set the tone of a team without even having to open their mouth.
No one likes to fail. I consistently tell my players, “it’s what you do next that matters most.” Attitude changes everything. Even Edison resorted to having a positive attitude when he was quoted while working on the lightbulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.” My coaches and I firmly believe attitude ranks highest for desirable traits in a potential player. That doesn’t mean players don’t get upset or cease to show any and all emotion. It certainly doesn’t mean they don’t fail. It does mean they battle through the emotion and pain of failure and pick themselves up, because the team needs them.
Effort is similar to attitude in that it is easily spotted through actions. One of the coaches on our team routinely asks, “was that your sprint or can you go faster?” For most of our players, the response is, “No. I can go faster.” The coach isn’t asking this for her benefit. Most of the time she already knows the answer is no. She is asking for the player’s benefit to help them recognize they are not giving 100% of their effort and it matters.
Effort can’t be faked and its effects, or lack thereof, are felt by an entire team. In softball (and baseball) there are only nine players on the field. Everyone has multiple jobs to do while they are on and off the field. If one of those players is not giving all of their effort, it forces the rest of the team to pick up the slack. This may get by for a few innings and possibly a game, but is not sustainable week after week and will tax a team to death. Effort has to start before a player even sets foot in the dugout.
The one-two punch
Ask my team what is the one thing I ask for and the unanimous response is always an enthusiastic, “GIVE 100 PERCENT!” Give 100% in both attitude and effort. I don’t separate the two. In boxing, the one-two punch is a combination of two punches delivered in rapid succession to cause the most effective blow to an opponent. Attitude and effort is our one-two punch. To create a championship-winning team you cannot have one without the other.
I often tell my players that I will pull them off the field in the middle of a game and play with eight players. It does not matter to me how great of an athlete they are or how much money they’ve paid or whose parent is the squeaky wheel at the time. When they are on the field they are to respect themselves, both teams and their coaches, umpires, parents, and frankly anyone they interact with during their time playing on and off the field. Our expectations and standards as coaches do not change for any player. I do not say this to the team to scare them. It’s to emphasize their attitude and effort matter more than the game they’re playing. And yes, I have played with eight players …. more than once.
Softball is finite. It will eventually come to an end. Attitude and effort will remain in everything you do in life. As I stated before they are, in my opinion, mutually inclusive. When you fail, your attitude and effort will determine what you do next. Give 100 percent.