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 How to Regulate and Manage All Emotions

How to Regulate and Manage All Emotions

How you can support your emotional athlete

As the parent of a young athlete, you're probably used to seeing a whole range of emotions, from wild joy to intense anger to devastating sadness. While it's tempting to try to help your athlete ditch the anger and sadness, it's actually more important that you let your athlete experience, understand, and move through their range of emotions.

Here, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, explains exactly how you can support your emotional athlete so that you're setting them up for success on the field and in the real world. And remember: When we talk about emotions, it's not just about negative emotions. Being able to understand and regulate positive emotions is important as well.

Don't avoid emotions
You may have had a coach who told you to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity, or maybe you're uncomfortable with big shows of emotion. But letting your athlete show their emotions in a nonjudgmental space is critical for their development.

"What I always try to reiterate to athletes, their parents, their families, and their coaches, is that all emotions serve an adaptive purpose," Chapman says. "Anger, frustration, excitement, disgust, sadness, grief in the event of a loss...all of those emotions are important. They're all trying to tell us to pay attention to what's going on internally and externally, and then to motivate us to engage in a specific action." In other words, emotions are trying to help us navigate our world successfully by helping us evolve our understanding of ourselves and how we relate to the world around us .

Understand the Vocabulary
The crux of awareness training is recognizing that all emotions are complex, but Chapman explains that most people assume emotions are simply feelings. "Athletes often say things like, 'I feel like I shouldn't have made that mistake', or 'I feel like you shouldn't have said that to me', but those aren't really feelings," Chapman points out.

It’s important to understand what makes up an emotion:
Thoughts—What I say to myself.
• Example: "I'm so mad at my teammate."
Feelings—Physical sensations.
• Example: A higher heart rate or clenched fists.
Behavior—What I do about it.
• Example: The angry athlete may confront his teammate and yell at him.

Separate feelings from emotions
"If an athlete says, 'I feel anxious,' then a parent could ask them to explain the feelings of anxiety. And the kid might say, 'Well, my heart's beating fast.' Now that's an actual feeling," Chapman says. From that point, you can work on changing the feeling. Start with those physical cues—in this case, a rapid heartbeat—by countering it with a physical stimulus, like pausing and taking a few deep breaths with the athlete's eyes closed. That's a start to control the feeling, so you can then shift focus to dealing with the thought that’s causing the feeling.

Get out of emotional spirals by focusing on the present
Any emotion that your athlete is feeling has been triggered by a situation that happens before it. "It's important to teach athletes to become aware that how they respond with that emotion will lead to short and long-term consequences," Chapman says. Coming back to the present and focusing on the controllable elements of the situation, rather than giving in to an emotional reaction, is often easier said than done, but it's a critical skill to learn. "Can your athlete get focused on this pitch, this swing, this moment in time, as opposed to being concerned about what might happen in three days or what happened two hours ago?" Chapman asks.

Regulating emotion is important for positive emotion too
Emotional regulation is true for positive and negative emotional experiences, and successful athletes are good at regulating all strong emotion. Get too excited, and you could get ahead of yourself. Get too negative, and that could lead to a very poor performance. It's a balancing act and regulation will make it easier to find success.

"The classic example of too much positive emotion is anytime you watch a team performance, and they celebrate too early. One minute, you're celebrating your certain victory, the next minute, the other team gets the touchdown, you've lost, and you're crying," Chapman says.

Teach flexibility
Being flexible means being able to envision possible outcomes that are based on evidence. That's the key to emotional regulation: It’s being able to say, "It could be ______. But then again, it could be ______." Or more specifically, "It could be that I'll never learn this skill. But then again, it could be that with practice, I’ll get it eventually.” Notice that the negative thought is still there, but the goal is to understand that there are also other possible outcomes.

Learning how to manage emotions, both the positive and negative, is key to success in sport and life beyond the field of play. These steps will help your athlete begin the journey to better understanding and controlling their emotions.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 Seeing the Stolen Base Signs

Seeing the Stolen Base Signs

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

From Dave Roberts in the 2004 American League Championship Series to Willie Mays Hayes in the movie Major League, the stolen base has long been one of the more exciting plays in baseball, a potential momentum shifter with every 90’ in the game.

As the game has changed in recent years, so has the stolen base and the propensity for teams to use it as a weapon. Gone are the days of players like Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman stealing over 100 bases in a single season. The idea behind the stolen base to get into scoring position has been negated a bit by the argument that- in this offensive era of doing damage at the plate- the runner is already in scoring position at first, able to score on an extra-base hit.

Regardless of the climate for stolen bases in Major League Baseball, there will always be an appropriate time and place to look for bags at every level of the game. And it’s being aware of those times within the situation and the accompanying signs from the game that are indicators of whether or not you can steal. With the underlying baserunning idea that every 90’ is 90’ closer to scoring a run; that run which may be the game-winner; that game, maybe the World Series clincher; your players’ ability to steal a base might just be the difference between you winning a title or watching your opponent celebrate one right in front of you.

Every game for a manager or a baserunner with a green light, the question looms: what is the appropriate time and/or situation to attempt a stolen base? While every coach may have their unique philosophy on the stolen base, one thing that is likely universal for all is picking a time and/or situation when they think the runner has a good chance of being safe. With that in mind, here are a few ways to steal bags against some different signs of the game:

The oldest bag in the book. Take the pitcher’s time to the plate (anything 1.3 seconds and lower is considered quick), add the catcher’s pop time to second base (2.0 and below is very good), and you have their combo time. To get an idea if that combo is suitable for the steal, you can get your runner’s steal time in practice, starting from their lead and stopping on their slide into the base. If that time is quicker than the pitcher/catcher combo time, that’s a good opportunity to be safe.

Some catchers struggle to make a strong and accurate throw to second. In the current age of one-knee stances, other catchers don’t put themselves in a good position to throw when runners go. By paying attention to the catcher from the dugout, you may be well prepared to steal a base by the time you get to first, regardless of how quick or slow the pitcher may be to the plate.

Pitchers are creatures of habit, and catchers can become pretty routine in their game-calling as well. A pitcher often tries to put away every hitter with the same pitch in the same count, or their catchers call for that same pitch accordingly. When a pitcher’s kill pitch is an off-speed pitch down and out of the zone, that makes for a great pitch to run on because of the difficulty of simply catching the ball for the catcher.

Pitchers are creatures of habit not only with the way they sequence their pitch arsenal against opposing hitters but also how they control the running game. A great jump by the baserunner makes it that much harder for the catcher to throw that runner out, no matter how quick a pitcher is to the plate. So if before delivering a pitch, a pitcher consistently comes set for two seconds every time or only looks once when that runner is on second base, that consistency enables a baserunner to get that great jump that usually results in a stolen base.

Creating an edge on the bases often comes from using the eyes in the dugout. In many cases, when players and coaches pay attention to the nuanced details of the game, those game-changing stolen bases start well before a runner even gets on base. It’s not only a matter of players wanting to steal; it’s as much a matter of them seeing the signs within the game that tell them when it will be appropriate to do so.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.

 4 Questions to Counter Negative Behaviors

4 Questions to Counter Negative Behaviors

The best questions to ask when your athlete is having a tough time

As a coach for young athletes, whether they're in elementary school or high school, you're going to deal with the emotional rollercoasters that young people experience. A fight with a friend over the weekend can translate to feelings of despair on game day, and stress over a championship game can leave an athlete feeling paralyzed. But as a coach, you can teach your athletes how to examine their feelings and move on from negative moments.

"Coaches care about athletes, which means we tend to give them reassurance when they have a negative thought," says TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. "That works for maybe 30 minutes, but it's ultimately going to backfire because now you have to keep reassuring them. The way to get out of that is to teach an athlete to think flexibly by asking the right questions."

According to Chapman, "The whole point of these questions is to get the athlete to look objectively at situations and not rely on emotional experiences. As the coach, you know the answers to the questions that you're asking, but it's going to be much better for the athlete if they work it out for themselves rather than you spoon-feeding them the answer.”

Here, Chapman offers some of the best questions to ask when your athlete is having a tough time or a negative moment on or off the field. And remember, these are also questions that you can teach athletes to ask themselves so that they learn how to question their behaviors and solve problems for themselves.

QUESTION: What's the evidence that this thought is true?
"This is one of my favorite questions to start with," says Chapman. "If a kid were to say, 'I know we're going to get blown out at the next game,' I would ask, 'Well, what's the evidence that this thought is true?'”

“He might answer something like, 'They beat us by about 20 in the last game.' Now we're starting to think evidence, not emotion."

QUESTION: What's happened in the past? Could there be another explanation?
"To change an athlete’s thought process, we’re asking evidence-based questions, not emotion-based questions," Chapman says. Your job here is to take the emotion out of the equation and force your athlete to come at a question logically, looking at only objective facts. Often, athletes will realize that their emotional argument isn't based in logic, which allows them to change their conclusion.

QUESTION: Does blank have to mean blank?
Being flexible is being able to generate other possible outcomes that are based on evidence, which means being able to say, "It could be ______. But then again, it could be ______." For example, getting beat in the last game sounds like a pretty good argument for getting beat this time. But follow that up with these questions: 'Does them beating us by 20 mean that they will automatically beat us by 20 again?'

Are you 100 percent sure that this outcome will occur? Are you certain that this thought is true?

In math class, students are told that they need to show their work on a test to get full credit. Make them do the same as athletes: What is the incontrovertible evidence that this is going to be the outcome?

QUESTION: What's the worst that can happen? Can you cope with that?
It sounds counter-intuitive to force an athlete to go even deeper into a negative thought. But leading the athlete through the worst-case scenario often helps them understand that the 'worst case' really isn't so bad. "This one is what I call the catastrophizing question," Chapman says. "Because catastrophizing is thinking the worst. It's actually great to make an athlete think through the worst thing that can happen. Once they decide what that is, ask: ‘Can you cope with that?’ The answer is almost always yes."

The easiest example is a playoff game. The worst thing that could happen is the team could lose because of a fumble made by the athlete. But can the athlete survive that? Of course. He won't be kicked off the team, his teammates will understand, and his coach will support him.

Many coaches wonder how to help their athletes overcome negative thoughts that impact performance and enjoyment of the sport. Use these questions to help your athletes change a negative thought process in their sport and beyond.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


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