Keeping Your Cool When Things Heat Up

Competition can be intense. Reputations are on the line, trophies are at stake, and adrenaline is pumping. What could possibly go wrong?

With all that rush of emotion surging, it’s no wonder things can get a little heated . . . . or heated to the boiling point. But being a good sportsman is part of playing on a team, so here’s a little help so you don’t lose your cool when things start to heat up.

What Happens When You Lose Your Temper?

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While losing you temper may feel good in the moment - that rush of releasing your pent-up fury - nothing good can actually come of it. In fact, usually quite the opposite. Our instinct is to lash out, screaming at the ref, kicking out at another player, or throwing a towel at the coach. But what does that really get you?

Benched

A penalty

Kicked out of the game

A fine

When you allow your anger to get the best of you, your performance drops. You lose focus on the actual competition, your attention shifting to retaliation. From here, your form gets sloppy, you start to engage in negative self-talk and self-criticism, all of which rob you of your self-confidence.

Not only are all of those things uncomfortable for you, but they can really have an impact on your teammates, too. Think about the 1998 World Cup game where David Beckham was fouled by Argentina’s midfielder, ramming him in the back and knocking him down. Not quite a fair play, but he let his anger get the best of him. He retaliated while still on the ground, kicking the other player right in front of the referee. He was rightfully punted from the game, which wound up costing England their chance at winning the cup.

Keeping composure through a heated game may not be easy, or fun, but learning to maintain self-control when you’re angry and riled up is a priceless lesson- both in athletic performance and life.

Learn Not to Take It Personally

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Most of the time you get banged in the face or knocked down, your opponents probably weren’t trying to hit you as hard as they did. You’ve done the same thing, thinking someone could handle a harder bump or misjudging your opponent’s movements in relation to yours. They’re not usually out to get you on purpose, so it’s not anything personal. You’ve got to learn to let the little things like that go. Brush yourself off and put your head back in the game. It’s not personal.

Create a Cue

It all starts at practice. Come up with a cue word or phrase that you can immediately say to yourself to put your mind back where it belongs, focused on the game at hand. Say you were beat to a ball, forcing you to commit a foul in the process. Instead of getting angry, tell yourself: “Faster Dee,” encouraging yourself to concentrate on running back on defense faster next time. If someone elbowed you during a soccer game, tell yourself: “First to the ball,” to concentrate on gaining possession of the ball instead of running after your opponent in retaliation.

Communicate

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Don’t keep things bottled up inside or your emotions will do nothing but explode later. Things you try to keep in get the best of you, so make sure you’re having open, honest, and polite conversations with your coaches and teammates while you still have your whits about you. If a teammate has been doing something that bothers you, calmly approach them and talk about it. It’s important to make sure you’re not criticizing, but if you think one of your teammates needs to step up their game, let them know at halftime or during a timeout. Don’t wait until you’re ready to explode and your temper flares.

Practice - Your Calm, That Is!

It may feel silly to you at the time, but hear us out. Role playing through positive responses can be a very effective way to program and train your brain. If you’re prone to anger, think of it as just another one of your practice drills. Use the help of your coach, your teammates, or your parent.  

Don’t Be Hard On Yourself

Everyone makes mistakes. So, you missed a pass or struck out. Even the best pros do it. Take that energy that’s about to turn into anger at yourself and use it to focus on the next awesome play you’re about to make. Give yourself permission to be human!

Learning to channel that anger, regain focus, and remain positive can really come in handy towards keeping you off the bench.

Pittsburgh-based Hustle Training is a growing startup created for the sports-driven players and coaches out there looking to up their game and maximize performance potential. Their website coupled with the mobile app makes it easy for players to improve their fundamentals and move on to master advanced techniques by providing crafted workouts and drills created by college coaches, professional players, and expert trainers.


Shawnelle Price