I can tell we’re getting close to baseball and softball season when I start getting more visits to my 2010 Saddleback Little League Opening Day speech. There is an art to giving an Opening Day speech. One key is to keep it short.
But the real challenge of an Opening Day speech or any speech is to get people to listen.
A hint comes from the shortest speech given at a baseball game. That’s when the umpire says, “Play ball!” Everyone knows that it’s time for the game to start. Of course, everyone will be listening when the umpire says that.
In fact, everything an umpire says at a baseball game is important. His decisions determine the outcome of the game. And if you tick off the umpire, he can determine that you need to leave the field. Not everyone agrees with umpires, but everyone listens to them.
People will listen to things that are important to them, even if what is said is negative. If a doctor on TV tells you about the importance of diet and exercise, you may or may not hear what he has to say. But if your doctor says you have a serious illness, and you need to modify your diet to get healthy, of course you’re going to listen.
When you speak, you need to find out what information would be valuable to an audience. What do they need to hear? What idea do you want them to take with them? A speech isn’t about what you want to say, but what you can offer of value to your listeners.
That’s why I like to leave parents at Little League games with this thought, “Inside the fence, we play hard to win. Outside the fence, we are all friends and part of one community.” I hope that in whatever youth sports league you’re involved in, you remember that these are children learning a game, and it should be a fun experience for them — and you.