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Effort in Sports (Part 1)

This article is the first in a four part series (maybe more) on effort in sports. Part 1 will be on general theory with Part 2 will going into more detail like interactions between categories, injuries and peak years. The first two parts can be applied to any sport. In Part 3, I will look at how the first two parts relate directly to baseball. Finally in Part 4, I will describe the instructions for a survey available on ranking baseball player effort.


No numbers or history lessons here today, just plain philosophy. I want to explain my take on effort in sports and the different items that can effect it. My ideas stem from the ideas of clutchness, streaks, players giving 110% effort and the effects these have sporting events. In baseball, some people believe that players live for the lime light.  When a game is on the line, these players can pull upon an inner power and make themselves better players. Once these idealists come back from Narnia or Never-never land, whichever it may be, it is time for a real discussion on effort.


Let me start with some basic ideas that will be this work's underlying ideas.

  1. A person can only give 100% effort. They can't do more than their body allows.

  2. There is not such thing as giving 110%. We aren't equipped with turbo buttons.

  3. Ideal Effort - In certain game situations, a person should have a level of effort that they can give that should be ideal. People give, nor need to give 100% effort rarely. It takes takes a lot of energy out of person to give 100%. If a marathon runner goes at their 100% level from the start and continues at this level, they would only be able to make a few miles at best. Instead they are able to go at 80% and finish the race.

If you don't believe these ideas or think they are wrong please let me know or stop reading. They are the three main underlying ideas I will will keep coming back to.


Section 1. Less than Ideal Effort


People don't always do their best (as it has been pointed out with my grammar). If a player only gives 80% most of the time, they might look good because they are a talented athlete. One such player would Micheal Jordan in his prime. He could be giving 50% and look better than anyone else on the court, but when he needed to give 100%, he would be unstoppable.


I have been around athletes that under perform. They start to crank it up when they are behind and will go on a hot streak. It is just a perceived hot streak and they would always perform at the higher level if they tried hard. I think this is really true in the NBA. I actually don't mind watching Sunday NBA because all the players know they are on TV and actually hustle and play defense because they know more people will be watching.


Section 2. Categorizing Physical and Mental Attributes


There are different kinds of characteristics that a person has that can be labeled to help explain effort and its effects. A person's attributes can first be divided into mental and physical. These two attributes can further be divided further into 4  Ability, Effort, Tank and Control/Experience.


Here are the definitions I will use for each:


Major Categories

  • Mental - Decision to be made with and by the brain

  • Physical - Body movements derived from instincts and mental processes.


  • Ability - Talent a player has in their body or brain at that point and time.

  • Effort – Measure of how much ability the player uses at one time.

  • Tank- How long a person is able to compete given a certain level of effort.

  • Control/Experience at Ideal Effort – Experience a player has giving ideal effort. This category started as a subcategory of Effort, but it helps to explain some exceptions to the first 3 categories

Here is some examples of the combined main and sub-category


Mental Ability - reaction time, attention, alertness, ability to memorize

Mental Effort - thinking of next pitch, getting self out of bed to work out, absorbing video time, ability to handle boredom and distractions

Mental Tank – ability to continue to have the same level reaction time, attention and alertness; ability to memorize game instructions and details

Mental Control/Experience at Ideal Effort – controlling emotion in a big game


Physical Ability – total amount of talent in a player. (For now I am looking at total talent and different talents may have to be divided out later.)

Physical Effort - running all the time, putting yourself in right position if play doesn't go as planned and how the body handles different climates

Physical Tank – strength, conditioning

Physical Control/experience at Ideal Effort – going below effort on a play when game is not on the line, but since game is on the line, you must make the play or lose.


That will end Part 1 of a series 4. Please let me know what you think and in the next installment I will go into more detail on subjects that can be applied to any sport.   For now let me know if any of these concepts need future explanation because without this base understanding any further analysis will not make much sense.