Softball focus is something that all coaches like to see during games. Whether it is on the field or at the plate, or when we are practicing different situations with different groups of players. It is important for us to know that there are in fact different types of focus.
Types of Softball Focus
The four types of focus are as follows:
Internal Focus: this focusing is sort of kinesthetic or the feeling type of focus. Actually feeling the movement in your muscles, or concentrating on how you are physically feeling is internal focus. Internal focus is also focusing on your thoughts about something that might have happened. This is a type of focus used when you are learning a new skill or in a stressful situation where you have to do something specific. For example trying to feel how your arm and wrist move while throwing the ball, or feeling the solid contact of a line drive. During a game, you would probably not be trying to feel the skill kinesthetically but you would experience internal focus when using your mental training skills.
External Focus: is focusing attention outward on an object that is in front of you such as focusing on the ball as it is coming to the plate to drive it up the middle. Or making sure your glove is in the right position as someone is throwing the ball to you.
Narrow Focus: is focusing on something specific such as where you are throwing the ball to. This is where your focus is only on relevant cues that will affect the outcome of your performance. Your ability to keep this focus can be affected by distractions around you and your psychological arousal level. If you are not mentally focused enough, you can be distracted by surrounding cues or activity. If you are too focused, you might miss important cues such as the receivers glove moving.
Broad Focus: is focusing on more than one thing at one time. This would be something like focusing on the base runners when throwing to first base or during a run down or “pickle”. Sometimes not only the game will determine the focus, but also the specific situation in the game like the number of outs or the score. During competition and training, it is common to be using two types of focus at one time. Some of them sound the same but have very different meanings.
Some of these combinations are as follows:
Narrow / Internal Focus: is focusing on something specific that you are doing like focusing on the target (narrow) and keeping calm while executing the skill (internal) at the same time. This would be relevant when fielding the ball when there are two out and the game is on the line. When learning new skills, you will use narrow internal focus. When trying to feel your body executing the skill at the same time as focusing on the outcome that you are trying to achieve.
Narrow / External Focus: is focusing on something specific outside of your body awareness such as a target only (narrow) and the surrounding events (external) at the same time. An example of this would be during a rundown. This takes practice because the external activities (the runner and your teammates) can be very distracting. You need to focus on all of them at the same time while moving the ball efficiently. Use simulation activities to give you experience with these situations.
Broad / Internal Focus: is being aware of multiple things that are happening in the environment (broad) while focusing on something like your breathing to relax in the situation and executing the mechanics of a skill (internal). This can be a difficult task but with practice will feel natural. Using cue words and self-talk can help you to make internal focus less of a task and more of an automatic ability. This skill will mostly be used for emotional control when the game is important and the score is close.
Broad / External Focus: is focusing on multiple things happening outside of what you are doing (broad) and the sport equipment that you are using such as the ball. Fielding and then throwing the ball requires focus on your glove, the ball and the play that you will need to make while being aware of the runners.
Concentration and Focus Together:
Softball players and coaches have so much going on that it can make it difficult to concentrate or focus on even one thing not to mention more than one at the end of a day. By making the environment enjoyable and by minimizing unnecessary stress, focus can be easier. Keep activities simple, short and active without too much discussion and athletes that have a hard time with concentration will learn skills at their own pace. Too often we tell players to concentrate, but do not teach them how to concentrate. It is important to involve them in this process. They may know exactly what’s happening but might not understand it as well as the coach does. There are many reasons for this which might include a lack of experience in the game and the environment that surrounds the game.
Start a season with small and easy to accomplish activities that need focus and then eventually put the activities together. Allowing athletes to flow into the idea of re-focusing. Let them work together on focusing and concentration strategies. You would be amazed at how they work their way through these skills with each other. Softball players can be much more creative than coaches sometimes so we need to give them credit for their abilities.