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  • Writer's pictureDanny Ourian

Emotional Regulation for Coaches

Certainly a hot button issue last March Madness now, wasn't it?

I've spent the last few years researching the ways in which basketball coaches value - good, bad, or indifferent - emotional regulation as a psychological skill within their coaching practice. While some of the results have been surprising, for the most part, the coaches responses were what you'd expect: emotional regulation matters for a coach's performance.

Emotional regulation in coaching is a multi-faceted skill to consider. Regulating your emotions is not the same as not having any emotion. We all have emotion, all the time. The key question is are you able to modify your internal and external state should you choose to? This is a very pressing challenge for much of the coaching profession..

A call doesn't go your way. A player is not giving it their all. You are tired, upset about something in your personal life, you haven't eaten right: It goes on and on. There are many factors that infringe upon a coach's ability to manage their feelings. You must ask yourself: when I coach, what is my purpose? If your reply was anywhere in the wheelhouse of "to serve my players," than being able to regulate your emotional state in order to be at your best for the athletes you serve takes work, especially when things are not going your way or you are triggered by players, officials, the atmosphere, your administration, etc. Like I said, the list of that which may be troubling a coach goes on and one.

So, how do coaches regulate their emotions? It's a work in progress. Literally. Every one of the coaches I spoke with mentioned that time, experience and making mistakes were critical to their improvement in this area. A great support network, including assistant coaches you trust and can rely on, can also really help with keeping your feelings from getting the better of you.

Other sources of emotional regulation for coaches included:

  • gratitude

  • parenting

  • faith

  • sport-playing experience

  • continuing education

  • relationships with players

Several coaches responded that they learned from viewing other coaches in action, as well as watching film of their own behavior and making personal pleas to avoid losing their cool.

And while there is much more to consider in terms of emotional regulation for coaches, for now, consider this: emotional regulation is not just for negative, angry, demeaning style coaching. It is also about a coach's ability to mute the positive, excited, overly happy expression when things are going well for their team such that they're not continually challenging their players to stretch their abilities further. And lastly, an expert coach gets to know his individual players and the group needs so that he/she can put forth the level and type of emotion they need at a given moment. That, no doubt, takes practice. It also takes awareness, support, and systematic techniques in order to do so.

Are you a coach that needs support with regulating emotions? Are you a player who needs it? You're not alone! Let me know how I can help.


Coach Dan


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