It’s the 85th minute of a heated 0-0 match, and you’re defending 1v1 on the edge of the box against a player who has been getting the better of you ALL DAY LONG. You’re frustrated, because every time you think you have them figured out they slip by you, and well, that’s embarrassing. So this time you’re going to show them who’s boss. You sprint with everything you have to make contact with a hard, fair challenge, but the other player knows you’re frustrated. An unexpected touch to the side… Contact… Penalty. The game ends 1-0 and you’re left feeling frustrated, self-conscious, and like you let your team down. That moment is yours, for all the wrong reasons.
I know that you’ve been there. Maybe the stakes weren’t quite as high or the consequences as steep, but in a momentary swell of emotion, we’ve all lost our heads and done something reckless or impulsive that has come back to bite us. While we never want it to happen to us, our response to these moments in which we lose control of our controllables shapes our development as players and people. True students of the game – those that desire to continue to grow in their knowledge and skill of the game indefinitely – are those who respond by taking control back.
But in order to take control back we have to know what we can control in the first place. So, after we’ve screamed into our pillows, cried our frustrated tears, and hopefully had a good night’s sleep, we think back to the dreaded moment once again, but with a different approach. We’ve gotta take the situation, and break it down. First, that annoying player had really quick feet… can’t control that. We came in really fast and it was easy to see that we were going to lunge in….. oooo, probably could have done something about that. We were letting a good player frustrate us instead of adjusting our play… welp maybe we could have taken some deep breaths. Oh and we were also more tired at the end of the game than usual… did we run more this game or was it because of the Doritos we had for dessert last night? Or maybe because we did an extra hour of shooting after practice the day before? Oh I know, it was probably the Marvel movie marathon we had the night before until 2am. It’s easy to see that if we look back even just one day, there were a ton of things that we could have taken better control of that led up to the situation we found ourselves in.
So the easy part is done! Now comes the hard part: actually making the change. When you first begin, start with achievable, broad goals that can get more specific with time and understanding. A few great places to start are nutrition, fitness and sleep. For example, try a new fruit or vegetable that you haven’t before once a week, take an ice bath after every game, stay away from lighted screens after 8 pm, etc. Find ways to slowly build your current control and you will eventually develop fine-tuned routines that lead you straight to your own success.
There will always be more skilled players, more cohesive teams, trying situations and disappointing failures. But when you approach and respond to these situations with positive action that takes ownership of those factors that are within your control, you allow yourself to grow. And because of that growth, next time you’ll end practice on time to save your energy, you’ll have a banana for dessert and you’ll get to bed by 10pm. Next time, you’ll approach with pace but break down and defend with good positioning and focus. Next time you’ll stuff your opponent, send the ball up field to put your team on the break for the game winner. Next time you will control your controllables. And that moment will be yours, for all the right reasons.