Focus and the Force in Youth Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Oct 24

Focusing on the ball!

I was watching Star Wars: Rebels the other night (actually, it’s pretty good for a cartoon) and the kid is being trained by a Jedi to use the Force. The Jedi is good at using the Force but he’s a horrible teacher.

In one scene, he keeps yelling at his student, “Focus, you’re not focused!” Like I said, he’s a horrible teacher but the whole focus issue struck a nerve.

Focus does not mean success. You could be focusing and still not skilled enough to accomplish the task. Or, you might just be focusing on the wrong thing. It’s very difficult to tell when you’re not a mind reader.

I think teaching kids to focus is a very valuable skill. And I think teaching them what to focus on is a sign of great coaching.

Ask two kids to balance a broomstick on the palm of their hand. Instruct one to look at their palm. Have the other look at the top of the stick. Who has the better focus? Can you guess?

Probably both have the same skill in focusing. I bet the one looking at the tip will be successful. The one looking at their palm will have a very difficult time no matter if they have the focus ability of Michael Jordan. They are focusing on the wrong thing!

There are four main components to focusing. They are:

1. Staying engaged with the task at hand. An example of this would be watching a fly ball and following it so it lands in your glove.

2. Being able to remove distractions. Ignoring the pressure of a big game or a loud crowd are examples of this.

3. The ability to process a lot of information at once. Peyton Manning is a master of this. He doesn’t focus on one receiver. He’s able to see the entire field and knows what everyone is going to do.

4. The focus of flow. This is where you’re able to trust your instincts and your training. The samurai called it, “mushin”. You don’t really think…you just act.

As a youth sport coach, what do you do to help your players focus? Are their techniques you use? Do you talk to them about it? I’d love to hear some thoughts, ideas and advice.

Coach Ron Usher

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