Turning Your Players Attention to What they Can Control

Most coaches will know that players if they focus on the wrong things, like things they cannot control, will waste energy, time and effort. One of the many aspects of coaching is about helping players to focus on things that will move the individual and team forward. In searching for these aspects which will lead to success there is a constant battle fought by a coach. 

Without a doubt one of the most important aspects for focusing a player’s attention is taking their thoughts away from any number of problems a team faces at any one time and tying their attention to what they can control. What a player can control is their own actions, their effort, their focus and accountability. What a player cannot control are things like another person, the teams result or the intensity of the whole training session. The uncontrollable aspects make players slaves of their own perceptions.

Autumn Bridge
A Team’s Pathway to Success starts with the Individual (Photo: Nick Page)


These negative perceptions if left unchecked can for some players become a ball and chain unto which they cannot escape and ultimately rob them of their ability to give totally in effort or cognitive function. They forever are looking around and wanting more from people who they cannot control or get more from.


As a coach have you ever had a player complain about the intensity of a team training? When players focus on the wrong things it raids them of their potential to draw their attention onto their own performance and be the best they can be every moment they are on the floor. By focusing on what a player can control even in a bad training session they can achieve a positive outcome. Challenge this player to discuss with what they did to change the situation. To evaluate their performance in regards to moving the team forward onto bigger and better things.


Have you ever had a player who points the finger of blame at others in the team? These players spend so much time looking at what the other members of the team are doing that they never see their mistakes. Ask this player what they would do in a similar situation if they were the person failing to reach the standard needed. Again draw the attention back to what the individual can control by asking how they can make their teammate a better player through encouragement and praise.


All players have the ability to be part of the solution. Team sports encourage this mentality and breed comradely from adversity. However, many players, junior, senior, elite or otherwise do not often have the tools of understanding or perception to realise what they can and cannot control without someone drawing their attention to it. Even those players that understand these concepts struggle in difficult times to follow this mantra. This is where the coach must insert themselves to ensure a player does not hit rock bottom and not come back.


Players who are able to maintain their focus will be able to better see the detail needed for them to shift their game to the next level. These players will be able to find things to do with their own performance every game and go away with ideas in mind on how they can change it for the better.


Coaches who speak to their players and teams using the terms of controllable and uncontrollable will help draw their team’s attention to this issue. With enough time and application this is how a positive team culture can start, and a team that focuses on what they can control will be a team that can get things done.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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