Sport is an emotional experience. Yes it is a physical activity but it is most definitely an emotional experience. It is an emotional experience for athletes, coaches, managers, family members, supporters and communities and there is widespread acceptance that emotion can affect athletic performance both positively and negatively. Each individual athlete has a unique emotional profile which has developed as a result of their unique biological and environmental conditions and whereas it is the case that each athlete’s emotionality is exclusive to them Woodfin (2014) has listed the following emotional styles of athletes. Do you recognise yourself or others among them?

  1. The Bubbler
    Feels anger and frustration build slowly. The bubbler can appear to have control over their emotions but if something goes wrong, they are prone to boiling over and basically self-destructing. The outcome can be messy.
  2. The Actor Outer
    There is no filter here. The actor outer feels anger and frustration strongly, they express them immediately and openly and after doing so they don’t necessarily let them go. As a result of not letting them go the process repeats itself over and over. Their apologists mistakenly describe these athletes as wearing their heart on their sleeve. The implication for performance is that their emotions become a major hindrance. Strong candidates for red cards. Stay away from on the bus home.
  3. The Mr. or Ms. Negative
    Fine when things are going well but when things take a dip so too do performance and mood. Defeatist attitude and may give up under pressure.
  4. The Manipulator
    Tries through intimidation, confrontation, and gamesmanship to control opponents, officials or spectators so that they do as he or she wants. This might include intimidating opponents, trying to influence officials, or trying to turn spectators for or against them. Manipulators put a lot of effort into affecting other people’s emotions but become ineffective athletically when they ‘run out of road.’
  5. The Positive Thinker
    Positive thinking is very important in sport but athletes in this category of positive thinkers are so positive that they are gullible and irrational. These excessively positive thinkers believe in successful outcomes when there is no factual basis for their belief and when situations are genuinely hopeless. These athletes may have success at lower levels against similarly minded athletes but will come a cropper at higher levels when faced with the reality that excessive and naïve positive thinking will not overcome athletic limitation.
  6. The Superior One
    The vain pontificator. These athletes are fountains of wisdom as far as they are concerned. They spend way too much time correcting others and trying to be continually correct themselves. When things eventually go wrong anger is the dominant emotion and it is typically someone else’s fault. At this point their credibility fades at the same pace as their influence. Another one to avoid on the bus home.
  7. The Grand Master
    Calmness personified and seems to perform in an emotionless state. Unaffected by threats, negative emotions, errors, or poor performances. Can retain composure through high highs or low lows resulting in consistently high performances and an ability to continually learn and redefine. A rare creature but the gold standard according to many.

Although the above is somewhat tongue in cheek, emotional intelligence in sport and emotional regulation is sport are crucial to performance and enjoyment. If you would like to do some structured work on these topics with a view to performance enhancement and enjoyment of your sport, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Cogbeh provides a range of cognitive behavioural services to a broad demographic in-person and online. 

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