Emotional Muscle, what is it? PDP Contributor & President of New Edge Performance, John Haime discusses the importance of emotional state on performance and provides some practical advice for building emotional muscle in football.

Working with some of the world’s leading athletes in mental/emotional development has taught me many lessons about what is important to be a consistent high performer. One thing I have learned for sure is that emotions run the show in elite performance and they certainly do in football. Head and heart are equal partners in high performance.

How many times have you gone into a training session or game situation in a negative emotional state, and that training or game turned out to be a disaster for you? Have many times have you had a calm, confident energy leading to a surprisingly good training or game and a great result? It doesn’t always happen that way, but it certainly does most of the time.

I work hard with clients to create a calm, confident, positive internal environment that helps them deal with the distractions and pressures that surround sport. If we are able to create the right internal environment, chances are they will be able to execute practice routines and play to their abilities. If the internal environment is stressed, anxious, conflicted, hesitant or uncertain, the battle begins to showcase the practice routines when it counts.

Football and Emotional Muscle

Enter you as a football player, who not only has to manage your internal environment for your own performance, but also be aware of what’s going on with teammates and coaches and their internal environments – doubling the difficulty!

This is why building “emotional muscles”, or being smart about your emotions, is so important to you as a football player. As an athlete, to be a consistent performer, you must always be building your emotional muscles and aware of how your emotions are impacting your performance. Are you aware of how your emotions affect you, your teammates and coaches? Developing your emotional muscles is as important in your development as a football player as your work in the technical and physical areas of the game. Each piece is important on the road to being a consistent, high performing player and balanced person. 

Emotional Muscle and Building Key Behaviors

Building emotional muscle casts a wide net around behaviors that are critical to high performance. The abilities are often the separator of average and elite athletes and help build the characteristics necessary for high performance. The primary abilities for you as a football player include:

  • Self-Awareness: Your ability to be aware of how emotions impact your performance, know your strengths and limits and align values and goals with your actions. You are acutely aware of emotional experience and motivations.
  • Self-Confidence: Your ability to believe in your abilities, decisions and opinions and express confidence in challenging circumstances.
  • Self-Reliance: Your ability to be independent in actions and judgments and take responsibility for your performance.
  • Achievement Drive: Your ability to set your own personal standard of excellence and not be constrained by the expectations of others.
  • Competitiveness: Your commitment to winning and aggressive willingness to compete.
  • Resilience: Your ability to cope effectively with setbacks and recover quickly from difficult circumstances. And, your ability to commit to interests and goals over the long term.
  • Focus: Your ability to keep your mind on a task for an extended period.
  • Self-Control: Your ability to keep impulsive emotions under control when under the pressures of the game.
  • Flexibility: Your ability to adapt your approach to changing situations and take appropriate risk.
  • Optimism: Your ability to see the big picture and sense opportunities in the face of adversity.

A Few, Simple Ways to Build Your Football Emotional Muscle

So, what are some actions that you as a football player can work on to build your emotional muscles and create that calm, positive, confident attitude that will help you enjoy the game and achieve your ambitions?

Here are a few ideas that may help…

  1. Move past mistakes quickly. Mistakes are a part of football and will happen … often. You and your teammates will both make them. It is critical to move past mistakes immediately and not allow them to have an impact on the remainder of a training or a match. If you make a mistake, drop it quickly and move forward.
  2. Set your own standard of excellence in practice at home and take this standard of excellence to matches. It’s easy to be distracted by all of the drama at a match environment, but stay focused on your own goals. What happens at the match outside of the pitch is not important!
  3. Create a strong, positive voice (I call it an Emotional Caddie) within yourself that supports you and is your own best friend. Your own voice is the most important voice in your performance. Many young athletes have a self-critical voice that creates a negative internal performance environment. Work on keeping your voice positive and supportive.
  4. Take responsibility for your performance and don’t blame those around you. You are in control of your own behavior and actions so assume responsibility and refrain from pointing the finger at others.
  5. Be aware of your emotional state before you train or play a match. If something has happened that has created a stressful, anxious environment within yourself, develop an approach to shift your emotional state to a more positive one before you begin. Always being aware of your emotional state is important for you, your teammates and coaches.
  6. Make your focus excellence and not perfection. The unrealistic expectations of perfection can create negative emotions like frustration and make you feel like a failure. This will not help you, teammates or coaches. Focus on doing the best you can do and on reasonable, manageable goals – and be satisfied with this effort.

So, spend some time developing and building your emotional muscle. It takes time to build, but it is a skill you can work on every time you play. It will help you have more fun, enjoy the game and allow you to reach your capabilities as a football player.

About the Author

John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A former professional athlete and current bestselling author of “You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscle to Perform Better and Achieve more … in business, sports and life”, John understands how athletes think and feel … he’s been there – under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. As a world-class specialist in the area of performance and one of the world’s leading authorities in Emotional Intelligence, as it relates to performance in sport, John coaches top athletes in all sports, executives and artists in a variety of performance areas. He is trusted by some of the world’s leading athletes – professional and elite amateur.  

See www.johnhaime.com

Email: john@newedgeperformance.org

Twitter: @johnhaime

LinkedIn: johnhaime

Photo Credit: Dean Varndell via Flickr 

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