Using your time efficiently

One of the concepts I’ve recently picked up is the idea of setting a standard and then training to that standard. It sounds simple, but it may not be what you think.

Often times we as coaches work on perfecting things that don’t require perfection. We want our players to be the best they possibly can be, so we relentlessly drill them, trying to push the envelope of what they can do. While there’s nothing wrong with trying to be the best, there is also a point of diminishing returns.

Here’s an example. On our team we set a standard of fielding ground balls in three seconds or less. The reason is that Division 1 colleges look for players who can run from home to first in three seconds. We figure if we complete the play from the time the bat hits the ball to the time the ball hits in the first baseman’s glove in three seconds or less we should be able to get most of the runners we face.

The revelation is that once we can execute to the standard there’s nothing to be gained by continuing to work to exceed that standard, i.e. to execute the same play in 2.5 seconds. There are plenty of other things to work on to prepare a softball team. Once you can meet the standard, it’s time to move on to the next thing.

The other thing is setting priorities. How much time have you spent working on the 6-4-3 (SS-2B-1 double play? The right answer should be not much. That’s a tough one to pull off with 60 foot bases. You need the right combination of things to go exactly right, e.g. a sharply hit ground ball to the SS and a pretty slow batter/runner. I’m not saying it’s impossible because I’ve seen it done. But the odds aren’t very good. So if you can pull that play off one time out of every 50 there’s a runner on first with fewer than two outs, it tells you that you shouldn’t spend more than 1/50th of your time working on it. If that. You’d be a lot better off working on plays you stand a much better chance of being able to complete with regularity.

There are only so many hours available to you to practice. The more time you spend on trying to exceed standards or on situations that don’t come up very often, the less time you have to spend on bringing other aspects of your game up to standard. It’s better to do a lot of things well than a few things great.
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