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Controlling the Raging Monster Within

Patrick J Cohn Ph.D. explains how to recover from errors and mishaps when playing your sport will hinge on your ability to let it go and remain composed.

To be a consistent performer, you must slay the raging monster within (control your emotions during competition). I am sure at one time (or two), you have become upset, frustrated, or angry with yourself, and it cost you the game or match.

Many talented athletes who do not know how to control their negative emotions fail to reach their potential because they get hot-headed, angry, or crawl into their negative mental shell and do not return.

You know the type - the perfectionistic athlete who is prone to emotional outbursts after errors or when not performing up to his or her expectations.

Emotional control is when you stay even-tempered, level-headed, or poised even when you are challenged by mishaps or adversity.

Even the top athletes, such as Tiger Woods, get upset, but they can gain control quickly and get back to business. Recovering rapidly from mistakes separates champions from athletes who crack under adversity and are cooked mentally for the rest of the competition.

To get control of the raging monster within, you must do two tasks - have an accepting mindset before competition and arm yourself with mental strategies to cope with errors or mishaps.

My students are taught two top strategies for regaining emotional control quickly:

  1. How to have a positive pre-game mindset for competition
  2. How to let go of errors before emotions snowball out of control

For example, your very first step is to identify strict expectations that cause you to become upset when you do not achieve your aspirations.

Here is a baseball example to highlight the mental game dangers of expectations. One of my students, a college pitcher, expected to throw a no-hitter every game. What do you think happened when he gave up his first hit?

He got frustrated and negative with his game because the perfect game was no longer obtainable. It took him several innings to get his emotional balance back, and by the time he did recover, it was too late.

Some expectations that can lead to feelings of frustration include:

  • I must play correctly to be successful today
  • I expect to perform perfectly today, and if I do not, I am failing
  • I cannot make any mistakes if I want to win
  • To play my best, I must have an error-free performance
  • I cannot stand making stupid errors and should be upset with them

If you carry these expectations into a competition, you set yourself up for feeling like you are failing. In reality, you leave yourself no room for success.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • COHN, P. (2008) Controlling the Raging Monster Within [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Dr Patrick Cohn works with athletes and teams worldwide from a variety of sports backgrounds. As the president and founder of Peak Performance Sports (Orlando, Florida), Dr Cohn is dedicated to instilling confidence and composure and teaching practical mental game skills to help athletes, teams, and corporate professionals perform at maximum levels. Patrick can be contacted through his website at