The following post is an excerpt from Emotional Aptitude In Sports NOW available through most online retailers! Click Here to Order
Competitive athletes are found in almost every corner of the globe. It is common to see National Championships in every age division from 9 years old to 90 years young and in almost every sport imaginable. In today’s competitive athletic arena, emotional aptitude is essential. Most players enter the game intently focused on improving technical (fundamentals), mental (strategic) and athletic components. Unfortunately, emotional control supersedes athletic, mental and fundamental development during competition. Under-developed emotional skill sets debilitate an athlete’s developed strengths- just when they are needed the most… Remember the quote?
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
My bet is that Mark Twain was referring to emotional aptitude. Emotional Aptitude in Sports delves into why athletes with seemingly solid games continue to lose … and lose often as a result of choking and/or panicking under stress. My fascination with this common athletic obstacle led me to research the science of emotional intelligence. It was the work of Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1980’s that inspired NY Times writer Daniel Goleman to write the groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence. Goleman collaborated with David McClelland, who was among a group of Harvard researchers interested in cognitive intelligence versus emotional intelligence. Goleman argued that it was not cognitive intelligence that guaranteed business success but emotional intelligence.
Given the importance of emotional intelligence in business success, I began to see the similarity emotional intelligence had on athletes- separating the successful athlete from the unsuccessful athletes. I found that unsuccessful athletes don’t necessarily lack technique, but lack emotional aptitude- which often holds them hostage. Decades of observation has proven to me that strong emotional aptitude is far more important than perfect form in athletic competition. At the higher levels of sports, every athlete has solid fundamentals. Despite being incredibly talented individuals, in the heat of battle, tremendous athletic assets abandon those that lack developed emotional skill sets.
In competitive sports, the parameters in which players are expected to perform are far different than repetitive non-stressful practice environments. Athletes expecting to perform identical series of movements/skills mastered in practice are often disappointed in actual competition.
Competition inherently involves uncontrollable variables that require the adjustment of form. Examples include:
- The Athlete’s Physical, Mental or Emotional State on the Day of Competition
- Different Speeds, Spins, Angles and Trajectories of Incoming Balls
- Different Speeds, Spins, Angles and Trajectories of Outgoing Balls
- The Athlete’s Body Language, Balance, and Stability
- Different Strategic and Tactical Options Required
- Varying Environmental Conditions
- Playing Surface Variations
- Movement Issues From Standing Still to the Dead Run
- Time Management (Less Time/More Time Available)
- Minute Body Link Variations and Adjustments
- Opponent’s Styles, Position and Skill Sets
In most sports, adaptable techniques are repeatable sequences of expectations, anticipation, reaction, movement, spacing, coordination and balance followed
by biomechanically efficient fundamentals.
The pressure of competition increases the need for strong emotional aptitude. I believe a missing link in many players’ developmental routines is not understanding when to shift focus from “perfect form” to “solid form with adaptable technique” under the pressure of competition. Far too many intermediate athletes continue to devote 100% of their time and energy toward perfecting technique and ignoring emotional skill set training. Failure to recognize the importance of performance under stress stunts an athlete’s growth. How an athlete handles adapting to the variables of competition under stress requires strong emotional aptitude.
In my opinion, athletes, parents, and coaches obsessed with one-dimensional training are stuck in the slow lane to greatness… hoping for no roadblocks along the way. While those in the fast lane are developing the preset protocols to maneuver around those roadblocks which maximize player potential at the quickest rate.
Emotional Aptitude in Sports serves as a wakeup call for anyone who is tired of coming up short in competition and is ready to do something about it. Welcome to a greater understanding of you!