Controlling the Controllable

Sport is tough; of that I have no doubt.  And watching Scotland’s most recent match against Ireland at Murrayfield confirmed this.  In my last 6 nations blog, I highlighted the difficulties attached to being the favourite to win especially when playing at home.  Against Wales, I felt that Scotland were not able to cope with the occasion but against Ireland it was something else.

Head Coach Andy Robinson was very vocal about the standard of officiating throughout this match.  He felt that Allan Jacobsen’s yellow card was not warranted and that there was inconsistency with the way that the Irish were penalised.  Ireland conceded 13 penalties to Scotland’s 4, and Andy Robinson felt that for equality, Ireland should have been awarded at least one yellow card.  Additionally he felt that every time Scotland got close to the line they offended.  Such play slowed the ball down, made it difficult for Scotland to find rhythm and to attack in the way they desired.  I’m not here to discuss whether or not Andy Robinson was correct but it did make me think about how external factors can hugely influence performance. 

When we prepare for competition we can prepare many aspects of our sporting setup; physical, technical, tactical and psychological.  As an aside, in my experience, the psychological preparation is usually the most overlooked and underinvested!  Solid preparation is essential for any athlete or team as we cannot expect success to come to us; we have to pursue it.  But despite all our preparation, there are many things we cannot control.  We cannot control our opponents, the environmental conditions or critically here; the officiating.

When athletes talk to me about coping with these kinds of issues, we usually work towards learning to ‘control the controllable’.  You cannot control their tactics, their fitness or controversial decisions, but you can absolutely control the way you choose to respond to these things.  In the same way, Andy Robinson praised the way the team chose to respond to the yellow card: ‘I’m delighted with the way the team came back from that’.

This is a tremendous mental quality and something that Scotland and their supporters should take great heart from.  Persistence in the face of adversity is not an easy thing to do especially when the nation and the media are desperate for a victory! 

Andy Robinson also likened Rugby to being a game of inches, which reminded me of a moment in Al Pacino’s speech from the film, ‘Any Given Sunday’.  In the speech, he says: ‘we can fight our way back into the light.  We can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time.’  Perhaps that’s what Andy Robinson said on Sunday afternoon…

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