Emotion is a big part of sports. The practices and games are intense. The investment level is significant. For players at any level, it’s really important. For coaches at the college and professional level, it’s their lives. It’s hard to be good at any sport without being fully invested emotionally.
Intense competition is always going to bring out a lot of emotion. It’s natural for coaches to get emotional as well. Understanding the level of emotion you show as a coach, and how it impacts your team, is important.
If you want your team to control their emotions, then start with yourself. If you show a lot of emotion when you coach, expect your team to get emotional as well. If you are yelling and screaming on the sideline, and your body language is strong, it’s hard to get on your team for doing the same (I’d love to see coaches who get upset about bad body language on their team compare it to their own body language on the sideline). If you challenge your team to stay composed, and get on them for being emotional on the court – while you are getting upset on the sideline, you are hurting your credibility.
If you react demonstratively to a referee’s call, expect your players to show similar emotion. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it or you don’t coach it. But it’s smart to understand where it is coming from. If emotion is a big part of the way you coach and your program, expect your players to follow that lead. You are going to have to deal with some emotional outbursts.
On the other side, if you don’t coach with a lot of emotion, your team may need a jump start every now and then. I learned this as I got more experience as a head coach. I tend to stay pretty composed on the sidelines, because I want my team to do the same. I don’t react emotionally to things that happen, good or bad. In the locker room before games, or in the huddles, I don’t really get excited. I stay even-keeled and try and talk calmly about the task at hand.
I learned that because of this, my team was rarely emotional. It doesn’t mean they weren’t excited or didn’t get themselves ready to play. They just usually stayed composed and on balance. And I realized because I was rarely emotional, there were times when I needed to get them going. Just like an emotional team can get too emotional and need to be reigned in, a team that is calm and composed sometimes needs a jump start. I had to understand this as a coach.
I realized quickly that my team usually followed my emotional compass. If I found myself getting too involved with the officials, my players would start to lose it as well. And it was hard to get on them for not being excited if I didn’t show any excitement myself. I recognized that I was the emotional barometer for my team, and if I wanted something different out of the I had to coach it.
When it comes to emotion, a lot of us take a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. But if you are coaching with passion and intensity on every possession, your team is going to reflect that. And if they get a little too emotional, you have to expect it. It’s hard to be an emotional coach and not coach an emotional team.