All coaches are looking for signs of leadership and toughness from their players. They’ll see these signs when their athletes truly understand what it means to give their best effort one pitch at a time. So often, unfortunately, athletes allow the situation to keep them from this lofty goal. Many don’t truly max out their effort until it’s perceived to be a particularly important game, opponent, or audience. Some “gamers” coast along early in the contest and truly put out their best effort only when they fall behind or it’s close in the late innings. Many push at the start, then coast if they get a lead. Others quit working hard when way behind, subconsciously thinking that a comeback is too unlikely to deserve their best effort. Most have a natural letdown when the opponent is perceived to be weak.
Coasting is not the only reason athletes fail to relentlessly give their best effort one pitch at a time. “Normal” competitors have trouble staying confident when things aren’t going well, and they don’t perform as well when they’re not confident. Some athletes become negative when it’s too cold, too hot, too bumpy, too far, too dry, too wet, or too dirty — even though they know they give a better effort when they are positive and having fun. Many lose intensity in particular situations, like a 3-0 count, 0-2 count, 2 outs and none on, or hitting with none on base (RBI lovers). Some stop putting out their best effort when they perceive (whether it’s true or not) that the umpire, a teammate, or a coach is putting out less than his or her best effort. Whatever the situation, all of these examples represent a lack of mental toughness, a lack of leadership by example, and a missed opportunity to practice giving another best effort performance.
Hopefully athletes learn the dangers of letting an inferior opponent hang around, the risks of taking any situation lightly, and the joys of walking through the door that the other team left open for a great comeback. Hopefully athletes learn to compete one pitch at a time. Ultimately, relentlessness is about controlling the controllables, and you can control giving your best effort one step at a time, each step of the way. When you don’t do this, your self-esteem suffers a little hit. When you do, you feel like a success regardless of the things going on around you that are outside of your control.
What about relentlessness at practice? Andrew Carnegie said, “The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world tips its hat to those who devote more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.”