What You Can Control: Top Ten List of “Controllables”

soccer ball

The following article was written by Juan Pablo Favero, Head Women’s Soccer Coach at Oakland University. It was originally published in The NSCAA Soccer Journal. Not only are these lessons applicable to any sport, but they’re applicable to all areas of life. At Fast Forward we often discuss the freedom and peace that comes from focusing on what you can control. With so much around us that is uncertain – and out of our control – how can you be more intentional about these ten areas in all areas of your life?

“Every sport has specific demands that must be mastered in order to successfully play and excel as an athlete”.

Physical, Technical, Tactical, and Psychological attributes serve as building blocks for success. In soccer, physical qualities like strength, speed and agility ale critical. Technical skills such as passing, receiving and heading are important abilities that must be mastered. Tactical intelligence includes vision awareness and decision-making on and off the bail. Other sports have similarly important elements In each of these areas. Some of the key mental skills in all sports are focus, optimism, and self-confidence and all these skills can be developed and strengthened.

One of the Mental Toughness principles I teach our players is controlling the “controllables’. Athletes have limited physical and emotional energy so wasting time and energy on things you have no control over and can’t do anything about, not only can empty your energy tank but also lead to frustration and decreased performance. Examples of things you cannot control: are the weather, field conditions, the crowd, and the referee to name a few.

Instead, make, the conscious effort to focus on the things you can do something about and have control over. Here is the Top Ten list I have encouraged our Aztecs to focus on controlling.

  1. ATTITUDE– Everything starts and ends with attitude and if you get it right, all else will fall in line with it. A positive, winning attitude helps you succeed and impact those around you. One of my favorite quotes on attitude is by Tony DiCicco, World Cup champion coach in 1999. “Attitude is a choice that can color any situation and it is contagious. You must act as the player you ware to become. Confident players focus on what they can do and don’t worry about what they can’t.”
  2. EFFORT– How hard you work is up to you and no one else. If you give up that control, you are giving away one of the main things that sets you apart from the rest. Your effort must also be smart and reflected in your work rate in practice and games. Anson Dorrance who has won 21 National Championships puts it this way: “Winning is not something built in a day; it is constructed year-round. As always, it comes down to progressive, consistent effort, with a view toward a long-range goal.”
  3. FOCUS– I define focus as relaxed concentration; it becomes especially important in games where outside distractions can keep you from performing at your best. Your focus must be on the here and now, on each play, one at a time. NBA coach Phil Jackson says, “The key is seeing and doing. If you’re focusing on anything other than reading the court and doing what needs to be done, the moment will pass you by.”
  4. FITNESS– The work you put into your physical conditioning will directly affect your ability to play while making a positive impact for your team. Two-time World Cup champion Michelle Akers gives the following advice: “Be committed to the one thing you can control – your fitness. Be smart and be aware that your decisions and actions on and off the field affect the team.”
  5. PREPARATION – Bobby Knight says it all: The will to win is overrated in athletics, because everyone wants to win. It’s the will to prepare to win that makes the difference. A side benefit of proper preparation is that it also helps you feel more confident.
  6. REST AND NUTRITION– Your performance is directly impacted by your food and hydration choices as well as the amount of rest and seep you get. Some research on your part will help you make better choices in this area.
  7. COACHABILITY– This has to do with your ability to receive, accept, and apply the coaching points from your coach. The smartest players not only learn from the coach, but also from their teammates.
  8. EMOTIONS– You must act your way into feeling and not feeling a certain way before you act. Former University of North Carolina basketball coach, Dean Smith said: You can act yourself into a new way of thinking more easily than you can think yourself into a new way of acting.
  9. COMMUNICATION – Positive, assertive, and clear communication is not only something you can control, but will also give you and your team an edge. Megan Jurado a 2012 NSCAA All-American for us at San Diego State said, ‘The sports psychology exercises really help our communication and how we work together. I think it has brought us together as a team.’
  10. BODY LANGUAGE– While this is a part of communication, it is actually the most visible and easiest thing you can change. If you walk out with confident body language and remain that way under pressure situations, it will send a clear and powerful message to your teammates, your coach, and your opponents.

So I encourage you to concentrate on the controllables. Start with attitude and pick one other quality at a time to work on with your players. You and your team will start to think more effectively and steadily perform at a higher level.”