How Parents & Coaches Can Improve An Athlete's Control of Emotions

One of the most common struggles that many coaches and parents face when working with athletes are their difficulties in helping athletes stay in control of their emotions. Many Parents who first approach SPMI state that their son or daughter gets overly emotional and that they have tried everything to stop it. What is unfamiliar to many parents and coaches is just how the emotional process works among athletes and individuals. First off, to go into the details of how human emotions are produced would take far more space to explain. In fact, scientists still do not fully understand much of the hidden components of how emotions are produced due to the brains highly complex make up. It is estimated by science that the human brain is made up of billions of neurons and those neurons consist of trillions of connections between them! On a positive note, science does know enough to help parents and coaches assist athletes in improving their emotional control.

First, parents and coaches need to know that much of the outbursts by athletes may actually be triggered involuntarily as a result of their unconscious. In other words, an athlete's emotional outburst may be an automatic reflex instead of a deliberately planned decision. This means that when parents and coaches get angry at the athlete's negative reactions they may not be helping to improve their response.

For parents and coaches to start helping athletes reverse their negative emotional habits they need to first understand what is causing the lack of emotional control. At SPMI, many of the athletes who struggle with emotional control also have at least one parent and/or coach who is very mistake focused. Meaning, the coach or parent is always pointing out the athletes flaws and weakneses. This constant reinforcement may pre-program the activation process of emotional control resulting in a "fight or flight" response every time the athlete makes a mistake in any future game or practice. The consistent criticism by the parent can then hurt the athlete to the point where their negative reactions in competition are something that is now automatic.

To reverse an athlete's emotional response to mistakes and setbacks parents and coaches need to take on a very positive role. Any form of analyzing before, during, or after a competition should be eliminated for at least 24-hours. In many cases, parents and coaches should allow the athlete to cope with the bad performance and more importantly not associate his or her mistakes with a consequence that goes outside of the competition setting. For example, an athlete who just had a bad game should not be worried about what his parents will say once he gets in the car or what his coach will say when he sees him again. Instead, the athlete should look forward to sharing his or her setback and look towards the parent or coach for positive support. 

For a more in-depth understanding and more solutions to improving emotional control please contact SPMI.