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Applying the 10/90 Rule to Coaching

Applying the 10/90 Rule to Coaching


Joe Rice

Many motivational speakers have made a few dollars promoting the concept of the 10/90 Rule. They want to empower their listeners to take control of their lives and not to feel that they are helpless with their future. They cite the 10/90 Rule which states basically that 10% of life are the events that occur which we can not control. The remaining 90% of life is how we react to those events and that we control our reactions. We control 90% of our life!

Let’s look at some of the implications of applying the 10/90 Rule to our coaching.
Imagine how coaches might react to bad calls, weather changes and other adverse events during a game if they were reminded of the 10/90 Rule. Would they still blame the refs for losing the game? Would they blame the outcome on a shift of wind or inclement weather?
Would they instantly become a “victim” every time something happens or would they start to use these situations as teachable moments?
How we react to adversity can determine our success. Coaches who can re-define situations and use them as teachable moments are controlling that 90% in a positive manner. Their players will be better focused on succeeding instead of focusing/obsessing on the negative event (bad call, poor decision-making, etc).

Imagine the situation where a player makes a poor decision during the game. If the coach focuses lots of attention to that mistake by screaming/yelling and possibly removing the player from the game, the player will react to it in a negative way. That player will probably play “tight” the rest of the game, playing to not make a mistake instead of playing to help the team. The coach chose to react to this situation in a manner which will not help the player improve. Imagine the various tactics the coach could have used to help the player improve their game?


Hear Calvert Hall Lacrosse Coach Bryan Kelly discuss his thoughts on handling adversity

Kelly Handling a Tough Season from Kudda on Vimeo.

What if you were to share this concept to your players? How many of you have those players that melt when they make a mistake? They are basically done for the rest of the game as they can’t get over the missed shot or bad pass. They are allowing that 10% mistake to affect 100% of their ability. Compare that to the player who is able to put mistakes behind them and keep working hard. Having that short-term memory or the ability to “Flush” (as the PCA suggest) is really empowering that 90% reaction. Is sharing this with the players simply enough? Should coaches constantly remind players of how their reactions determine their next moment? Rather than point out mistakes to players, shouldn’t we stress ways to improve? Do you think that will help how that player handles the 90% in a positive manner?

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