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One of the critical skills that anyone playing sports to a high level needs to learn is that they have to focus only on what they have control over and not worry about anything else. Everything that you have control over is your responsibility and you need to take that into account. Anything you have no control over is not worth thinking about, thinking about it is wasted focus, wasted energy and since we only have so much energy to expend then wasting energy could be the difference between winning and losing.
In the book “the score takes care of itself” the legendary American Football coach Bill Walsh writes about how the critical thing for him and his organisation was excellence of execution. The focus was not upon winning or losing games but rather on breaking down the game into the parts over which they had control and then executing these parts to perfection. The idea being that by controlling and perfecting these parts then this would give them the best chance of being successful, Yes, things might go against them in the game, a bad referee call, a dropped ball at a critical moment, an interception, an injury
When we consider goals for a team it is important that we do not focus on goals that are beyond the control of the team. For instance a goal of increasing sales by 50% might be fine for your sales team but for the accountants who are responsible for maintaining accurate records and providing quick management information it would be be well outside of their control and will probably greatly harm motivation.
At St Helens the goals that Scully and the team would focus on were those over which they had control. The team knew that if they were fitter, were better prepared and executed their plans better than the opposition then they would have every chance of being successful. So they focused on high quality fitness sessions, a great work ethic during training when they practiced skills. By having a focus on the right areas over which they had control and creating goals around these areas then they improved greatly their chances of lifting the silverware at the end of the season.
Mentally it is important that people have the same approach to the tasks that they carry out.. The picture above gives a great example of the need to concentrate on the aspects inside your zone of control and go through the process that you know will deliver success. In the build up to this game, the 2007 World Club Championships, Scully had been injured and going into the gam he hadnt kicked a ball for six month. Before the game he was asked if he would take the kicks and he agreed. When the first kick at goal needed to be taken Scully could have thought about all the things that could go wrong and the fact that he had been injured for so long. He could have worried about how important the kick was at such a crucial part of the game and let his mind wander into how awful it would be if he missed. All of these thoughts would have been wasted energy, the only think that Scully could control was his ability to go through the process of kicking a goal, something he had done countless times in the past and that is what he did.
Control the controllables, don’t waste energy on things that do not matter and ensure that you have an influence over the goals and targets that you set for yourself.
This is how the kick went:
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