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Controlling the Moment

It’s nice to be in control, but in athletics that’s not always possible. There are a variety of factors that can make coaching unpredictable, from spectators and officials to weather and playing conditions—not to mention your opponent. These can all become distractions if you let them, so it’s important that you focus instead on what you can control.

In an article on, sports psychologist Patrick Cohn outlines the many aspects of athletics that are outside of a coach’s control. The list goes on and on, and Cohn makes the point that it’s impossible to manage everything. Therefore, he suggests that coaches focus on what they and their athletes do have control over.

Here is Cohn’s list of what you can control in sports:


One of the most important roles of a coach is to create an effective game plan. With the right level of training, you can turn that game plan into a reality. Working with your players during practice and getting them prepared for competition is one of the main ways you can affect the eventual outcome. Use practice time to develop competitive strategies, techniques, physical and mental skills, and warm-up and pregame routines so that your athletes will be as prepared as possible when they face their opponent.


The effort you want to see during competition can be established during training. Make sure your athletes are practicing with intensity and attention to detail, and this will translate when it comes time to compete. No athlete improved without putting in the necessary work. Talk to your team about the importance of hard work and how effort is one of the main things they can control, and be sure to set an example with the effort and energy that you bring to the table.


Having the right attitude starts with developing a positive mindset. Sports are meant to be challenging, and throughout the course of a season everyone will be met with some level of adversity, from injuries to bad officiating to tough losses. With the right attitude, you and your athletes can overcome these obstacles and compete at a high level. Try to maintain this mindset throughout the season and find ways to boost the morale of your athletes when the going gets tough.


You can choose what you pay attention to. But if you are not focusing on the positive and immersing yourself in the task at hand, it will be difficult to succeed. Don’t get caught up in the uncontrollables. Keep your head in the game and emotions in check. This will help you perform better as a coach and set an example for your athletes to follow.

When you spend time worrying and thinking about all the uncontrollables, you set yourself up for failure. This can lead to negative emotions and draw your focus away from the tasks at hand. You will no longer be immersed in the present moment and performance is likely to decline. Consider making a list of what you can control in your coaching role and look back on it whenever you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed.  

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