Control What You Can While Playing

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Control the controllable in youth sports.

“Control the controllable.” This phrase, often heard in the realm of sports psychology, holds significant meaning. But why is it emphasized, and how can we implement this principle effectively in our lives?

Soccer Mindset Coach & Soccer Performance CoachHave you ever found yourself at halftime, trailing behind, consumed by thoughts of the referee’s controversial decisions? Or perhaps you’ve lamented the poor condition of the field, convinced that better turf would surely tip the game in your favor? Maybe you’ve fixated on a single mistake, rueing its consequences and imagining how things could have unfolded differently? Or, worst of all, have you fretted over the post-game reactions of your coach or parents?

Here’s the stark reality: these factors are outside your sphere of influence. You can’t control the referee’s calls, the quality of the field, or even the weather. You certainly can’t micromanage your teammates’ efforts. And dwelling on the past or worrying about others’ responses only serves to derail your focus and sap your concentration.

So, when you’re reminded to “control the controllable,” it’s a prompt to shift your attention away from external variables beyond your control and back to what you can actually influence—yourself.

But how do you go about doing that?

Goal Setting:

Begin by setting personal goals and focusing on the steps required to achieve them. When your attention is directed towards your own objectives and the actionable strategies needed for their attainment, external distractions tend to fade into the background.

Positive Self-Talk:

While you may lack control over external opinions, you have complete authority over the dialogue within your own mind. Choose to uplift yourself with positive affirmations. Acknowledge your accomplishments, offer yourself words of encouragement, and steadfastly believe in your ability to overcome any obstacles.

Explore More: “The Power of Positive Self-Talk: How Words Can Change Your Brain”

Relaxation Techniques:

In moments of frustration—whether due to a contentious call or a teammate’s error—utilize relaxation techniques like deep breathing to calm your nerves and recenter your focus. Take a moment to acknowledge the emotions you’re experiencing, inhale deeply to ground yourself, and consciously release any tension.

Reframe the Situation:

Challenge yourself with a critical question: Is this person, situation, or circumstance as crucial as I’m perceiving it to be? Often, the answer is no. Reevaluate the scenario, let go of unnecessary stress, and strategize how to turn it to your advantage.

Refocus Routine:

Develop a refocus routine—a brief, simple action you can perform whenever negative thoughts or mistakes threaten to disrupt your performance. It could be as straightforward as adjusting your jersey while mentally repeating a positive mantra like “let go.”

Remember, in both sports and life, there will always be factors lying beyond your control. However, mastering the art of focusing on what you can influence while letting go of what you can’t will not only alleviate anxieties and frustrations but also anchor you firmly in the present moment.

If you’re eager to delve deeper into the art of effectively “controlling the controllable,” don’t hesitate to reach out. As a Soccer Mindset Coach and Soccer Performance Coach, I’m here to guide you on your journey to peak performance.



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