I had the privilege of being a guest on the ‘Age grouper for life podcast’ – the ultimate source for living the triathlon lifestyle, where USAT certified coaches Collin and Elliot discuss the most optimal training techniques to get athletes you where they want to be mentally and physically.
We discuss several interesting topics on aspects of mental skills training such as imagery, emotional control and being in the flow state among others.
We will get into the popular flow state (‘zone’) after, but in this blog, we will explore emotional control and how it affects athletic performance.
Emotion is a strong feeling deriving from feelings occurring in response to meaningful or important situations, which can influence mood.
Basic emotions such as fear, anger, joy, disappointment are common experiences in sport. Competition brings out the best and the worst in athletes because the psychological demands, especially when there is more at stake, are quite high.
In my personal experience as a mental skills trainer not knowing how to control emotions is one of the top two reasons why athletes fail in competition.
A lack of emotional control in sports can be triggered by many things. Some athletes lose their composure after they or someone on their team make a mistake, or the referee makes a bad call.
Researchers have studied emotions in order to determine why they occur and what impact they have on behavior.
Since physiological symptoms, such as increased heart rate, were commonly observed in emotions, it was initially believed that emotions were the result of physiological changes.
But scientific research has shown that both physiological arousal and the cognitive interpretation of that arousal are important in determining the emotional response.
What causes Athletes to lose Emotional Control
As an athlete, the first step to improving your composure is to identify the mental breakdowns that cause you to lose emotional control in sports.
Below is a list of other top mental errors that cause athletes to lose their composure:
*Perfectionism — for the athletes who focus on perfection when things don’t go perfectly for them they lose their composure because they become frustrated and then focus too much on their errors instead of the tasks needed to perform well.
*Social approval (worrying too much about what others think) — now this is one of the newer ones. In this social media era, it is very common for athletes and celebrities to get caught up in the whirlwind of social commentary. Athletes oftentimes worry too much or mind read into how they think others may judge them. It’s not only a major distraction but a serious emotional trigger. Athletes lose composure because they are too concerned with how others may perceive their performance.
*Irrational Beliefs — this causes athletes to stay stuck in old, ineffective patterns of behavior. It forces them to ask to think ”I will never get a hit,” or “I have to get a hit or everyone will hate me.”
*Fear of Failure — fear causes athletes to worry too much about losing or failing. This can lead athletes to play defensive and tentative instead of composed and free. There is a flipside to fear though, if anyone can manage to take fear from in front of them and place it behind them, they can flip it around from blocking them to propelling them forward.
*Dwelling on Errors — when athletes get too caught up in mistakes and dwell on them, it becomes easier to get frustrated and lose emotional control. Due to the nature of sports, all athletes need to be more accepting of mistakes focusing on the next play, shot, race, or routine.
*Energy levels — for those athletes who everything kind of falls apart on the day of competition, a lot of times is because they fail to manage their energy levels which often times leads to anxiety. I have worked with a lot of athletes who even forget to sleep the night before, can’t focus on the right things, didn’t eat the right way because they’re just too freaked out. Take a look at this article to learn more: Energy Management for Optimal Performance
*Unrealistic Expectations — it’s good to be positive and have high standards but sometimes it’s a thin line between optimism and unrealistic expectations. Any athlete with unrealistic or too high expectations for their performance is likely to become easily frustrated, lose control emotionally when those expectations are not being met.
How you can master Emotional Control
Emotions are an essential component of sports, but if you don’t control them before and during competition, they will control you and hinder your performance.
Often times controlling emotions is the deciding factor in whether you or your team succeeds or fails, particularly when physical skills are evenly matched.
Yes, some people are more emotionally sensitive than others, but establishing emotional control by implementing psychological plans and routines, can help all athletes to a more optimal state of readiness for performance.
When you lose your composure, which is highly likely in the emotionally-charged nature of sports, it’s important to have a proper strategy in place to deal with performance stress.
A mental skills trainer can help you to put those plans and strategies in place to practice emotional control during as well as get into the right mindset prior to competition.
Contact me if you want to find out how.