Control the Controllables by Chad Kanoff
Updated: Sep 3
Chad Kanoff, arguably the best quarterback to ever play in the Ivy League, is the first quarterback I ever coached. More importantly, I know I have done my job when he reached out and wanted to give back by adding to this newsletter. His first piece is below...
Control the Controllables
By Chad Kanoff
Last week I worked out with Rand at the Will Rogers beach with one of his high school kids, Henry a sophomore at Harvard-Westlake. While working out, I asked Henry how old he was, he said 15. I’m 25 going on 26 in two months, and never have I ever felt so old. While Henry’s response made me feel like the football version of a grandpa, it also laid bare how much time I've spent training with Rand. Over 12 years! I owe this man so much, and can say truthfully that I would never have played NFL football, let alone college football if I had not had Rand as my coach.
It's hard to put into words all the things he's taught me, but I’ll try a little here. He taught me how to throw, how to drop, how to hold the ball, how to reverse out to pitch the ball, how to take a snap, how to train year round, how to move my feet, how to lift, how to take a hit, how to set goals and achieve them, how to be coached, and most importantly how to be a good teammate. All things I still work with him on weekly, a decade later.
Rand Holdren has had a huge impact on my life, and it started just because he decided to volunteer his time as a QB coach for my freshman team at Harvard Westlake. I would like to help young quarterbacks improve and achieve their goals in a way that Rand has, and writing in this newsletter seems like a good way to start.
The realization that I’ve trained with Rand for 12 years made me think deeper about how long I've been playing football, and just how many different teams I've been on and how many different head coaches I’ve had: 21 football teams, and 16 different head coaches.
Here is the breakdown: Before high school, I played 3 years of flag football for 2 different coaches, 3 years of tackle football for three different coaches. In high school, I played on 4 different teams and for two head coaches. In college, I played on 5 different teams for the same head coach. And professionally I’ve been on 6 teams and played for 6 coaches (AZ Cardinals - Steve Wilks, AZ Cardinals - Kliff Kingsbury, Detroit Lions Matt Patricia, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Bruce Arians, XFL NY Guardians - Kevin Gilbride, XFL LA Wildcats - Winston Moss/Norm Chow).
I’ve been on championship teams (2013 and 2016 Ivy League Champions) and also on some of the worst teams (2018 AZ Cardinals that finished 32/32 in the NFL), and tons of teams somewhere in between. There are a ton of common themes and messages from coaches throughout many of the winning teams that I will get to in a later newsletter, but the most powerful message that any good team takes to heart is “Control the Controllables.”
Princeton football beats this into you almost every day, where the team meeting often starts with a slide with nothing but the phrase. What does it mean? Figure out what you can control, and do everything in your power to control those things, and don’t worry about anything else. While this phrase is only 3 words, it packs a serious punch, and really is just shorthand for my favorite prayer, the serenity prayer, which goes “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
In a year when many high school and college football players don't even know if they’ll have a season, I couldn't think of a better one to think about. Whether there is a season is something totally out of your control, so it is not something to worry about. That’d be like worrying about what the weather will be at game time, or that your head coach is an idiot, or that your receivers can’t get open, or that your weight room looks terrible or you don't have access to weights. On the flip side being prepared and training like you have been, is totally in your control. Instead of thinking what you can't do, you should think about all things you can do. You can do bodyweight lifts, you can get tons of extra practice on your own to focus on what you need to work on to improve your game.
While cliche, having a ‘can do’ attitude is hugely important.
I am trying to take that to heart as I am currently a free agent, meaning I too don’t know if or when I’ll get another opportunity to compete; but dwelling on that reality is something I try to spend no time on, and instead I focus on my lifting routine, my throwing routine, my diet, and improving my footwork. I do this because I know that when you control what you can control, and maximize your time spent on the things you can do, good things always happen.
Monthly reading list recommendation: The Obstacle Is the Way - Ryan Holliday. A book about turning negatives into positives that draws on lots of the wisdom of Stoic philosophy. Instead of complaining about your circumstances, turn seemingly negative circumstances into advantages that drive you to success. This book was one of the most read books by NFL coaches when I was a senior in college, and it’s a philosophy I try to live by. I try and read it before or during training camp every year to make sure I’m focusing on the right things and highly recommend you do too!