Control vs Affect

Ah February – what a cool month (except this year – been pretty warm here in Bama).  It’s black history month, you have Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Chinese New Year, Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, can’t forget Shakira, Jerry Springer, and Gary Coleman! Oh, and yours truly was born this month too.

An inquisitive and smart reader made a comment a few weeks back on the Zen FB page looking for some insight regarding the snake. We connected via DM’s and discussed my particular approach to coaching snake players.  This was originally going to be this months’ topic (the REAL purpose of the snake player). But then, a few hours later another reader sent a DM asking about back center priorities.  And then finally, a day later during a recent conversation with a close PB friend, we were discussing the importance of communication (specifically codes) as a means of offense and defense…  So I was going back and forth on what to cover this month.

Just a few afternoons ago as I was helping my two youngest children prepare for a quick camping excursion during which, it hit me.  What do all of these things have in common?  What is a way to bring all of it together?  Or better yet, what is one word, one topic that may carry all of it?

Those responsible for my “flux capacitor” moment…

Control:  They are all about control.  Whether that control is understanding those first shots as you enter the snake, winning the snake war, containing the forward momentum of an opponent’s press, or  “joysticking” your teammates to mount your own defensive or offensive push, it all results in some form of control on both sides of the marker.

“We don’t talk about next year. We talk about today, and we talk about the next game. And that’s all we can really control. The rest of it will take care of itself.” – Bill Belichick

Tournament paintball has a tremendous amount of dynamics to it.  In-game circumstances are in constant flux and preparing for that type of dynamic can be… well… dynamic.  Because our opponents and, in some instances, our very own teammates can be rather unpredictable (there are elements which are predictable but that is another topic altogether), we need to understand from a mental and physical preparation point how to be as best prepared for these variables.  So, as with any sport, we want to focus on the things we CAN control and put those controls in place immediately and with great zeal.  Besides controlling what you can, it would make sense too if we could minimize the negative effects of those things we can’t, yes?  Of course!  Don’t be daft.

If you have played sports for any length of time, chances are you have come across the concept of “let’s control what we can.”  In other words, put your time and energy into the things you have complete autonomy of (nothing affects it but you) and not the things you have absolutely no sway over whatsoever.  It’s efficiency at its most basic essence.  And it can be applied to everything you do, from taking care of your gear, to practice, drilling, and preparation for an event, to the event itself.  Heck, your diet, exercise, sleep, and hydration.  These are all things we can control, wouldn’t you agree?  And why wouldn’t you be factoring these things in?  If you’re not, you aren’t serious about winning.  Why?  Because a well-rested, well fed/nourished body that trains appropriately is going to have a well-rested, well fed/nourished mind that will be its most effective when necessary and needed.  We create optimum performance by controlling the factors that lead to optimum performance.  If we follow an effective process for all things within our control, we can almost guarantee a better performance when it counts.  No one can ENSURE success in paintball (a bounce here; a bad call there)…. But we increase our chances or rather put the odds in our favor so to speak.


So – where to begin?  Maybe not everyone on the team buys into this.  Divisional players are a flighty bunch.  One minute they are down for the cause, the next their grandma has died for the 3rd time and they can’t make practice.  Control what you can control… you.  That’s where it starts.  It starts with you being the example.  Remember, winning is a habit so we need to get into the habit of addressing all those good habits that lead to better odds of success.

But let’s take it a step further.  Instead of trying to ensure everyone is doing everything like you… perhaps you ensure everyone is focusing on the right aspect of their game?  The appropriate habit they need to focus on specifically?  The whole “strengths and weaknesses” concept is paramount as we have discussed on here several times.

“What a man’s mind can create, man’s character can control.” – Thomas A. Edison

Don’t get caught up so much on whether or not you are controlling every aspect of  the teams “habits” (although keeping track of these things helps).  Rather, try to identify and nail down the aspects that are under your control prior to an event.  And I guess that is my point… that I just tried making… after 7 paragraphs leading up to…

Appropriate control of preparation is important and ensuring everyone on the team is aware and on the same page is just as important.


That whole “being on the same page” thing?  Yeah, that is certainly controllable. If that isn’t happening, you have bigger issues.

One thing I have really taken into account, especially since I am older than your average bear, is my physicality.  I used to be “wiry” and quick.  I got the wiry back but now I have to build the gas tank.  I am much older, but that is no excuse.  It just means my body recovers differently and takes more coaxing.  As long as I do it safe, recognize my limitations, and control my sleep, my water intake, my diet, and my work outs in a safe manner, I should be good.  I’ll be sure to let you guys know how it goes in a later blog.

Okay, so let’s see… where are we?  We can’t control things like referees, the playing surface, the weather, our opponents.  However, we can control how we address those things.  We can most certainly control our strategy for the opponent, our preparation for the event, our bodies, out attitudes, etc.

Let’s say you are at an event and the playing surface is muddy and its drizzling rain… how many of you are focused on those two things?  “Man, that mud is going to be an issue and this rain… when will it stop?”  Now – do you think this is a good frame of mind before the match?  Or perhaps something along the lines of focusing on what you can control?  “I need to make sure I stretch well so I can get a good jump in this mud.  Good thing I brought my visor since we knew there was a chance for rain.”  See the difference?  Don’t let the stuff you can’t control, in fact, control you.

“If you learn a martial art, you learn to be dangerous, but simultaneously, you learn to control it.” – Jordan Peterson


We all have to understand that we can’t control things outside of ourselves.  But we can almost always have an impact on these things in some form or fashion.

But don’t get confused.  Let’s understand the difference between controlling the things we can control and influencing those things outside of our control.  And why wouldn’t we want to have some form of impact on those factors outside of our total control?  You bet we do!  Again, we want to put things in our favor.  I would argue it comes down to timing; when and where to control and when and where to attempt to impact something beyond our complete control.

When at an event, players and coaches should ask themselves what can we control right NOW, what can we do, to make sure we perform at our highest level. Is that even making sense?  It does in my brain… but let me know if I’m not explaining this appropriately.

Control the “controllables” and do your best to affect those UN-controllables in a positive controllable way.  We want to build an environment that is conducive to winning!   But we need to recognize that there is a time and place for each.  Standing in the pit with 2 minutes on the clock before the match starts is not the best time to be thinking about anything not in your control.  It should be all about what you most certainly can control.  Does that explain it better?  TIMING OUR FOCUS.  There it is!  That’s what I’m trying to say!  Know when to focus on what you can control and when to focus on affecting those things you can’t.  Strategic focus!  I like that better.  Force multiplier.  Yeah…

Be water my friends.

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