I spent two years coaching my daughter’s T-ball teams. Each game, teams of 4, 5 and 6 year olds would take to the field for three innings of batting and fielding. As a coach, I always told my players to focus on the ball.
Now I realize that they were learning to focus overall, not just on the ball. Sure, there is team work and goal setting, but fundamentally, a child cannot understand the value of teamwork without understanding how to focus.
In T-ball, as in all sports, there are many ways and opportunities for young athletes to find ways to focus.
Think about it — a child athlete has to focus on putting on a uniform. They have to focus on working in teams. They have to focus on their coach’s instructions while family and friends are watching.
Also — and this is most likely a brand-new experience for our youngest athletes — they have to focus despite the opposition that is created by opposing teams and their fans. Essentially, they’re out there with people rooting against them. This is a great way to help them learn how to focus.
As parents, it is our job to continually encourage our young athletes to focus on what’s in front of them. For most sports, being in the moment means focusing on the ball despite external distractions and the internal distractions that come from their racing minds.
Hershey Park on a busy Saturday? Focus on the ball.
Taking the pet to the veterinarian? Focus on the ball.
Focusing will help during the academic school year and will greatly help as they mature through childhood, and eventually adulthood.
I hope all parents coach their young athletes to focus and stay in the moment. It is truly a life skill they will take with them for life, long after they’ve retired their cleats.
Jamar Thrasher is a Pennsylvania-based writer who often writes about youth issues and is the owner of Kennedy Blue Communications, a PR firm which focuses on youth organizations and youth initiatives. His work has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PennLive and the New Pittsburgh Courier. He lives with his young daughter, Kennedy.