Lessons From The Psychology Behind The FIFA Soccer World Cup

As we approach the 2018 FIFA World Cup Soccer finals,  there are lessons we can learn from the psychology behind the game and how we can apply them to our lives.  By Dr Karina de Bruin.

So far this year’s World Cup tournament has been marked by huge upsets, leading to shock exits – of which South Korea’s elimination of Germany was notable. And Croatia’s win over Argentina probably the most remarkable. If Germany went into the tournament as one of the favorites to take the cup home, their disappointment and despondency after losing to South Korea came as no surprise.

Soccer is a game of rollercoaster-ride emotions, for players as well as spectators. One moment there is jubilation, euphoria and triumph and soon after, there is anticipation, anger and sorrow. What happens next usually depends on how the individuals and the teams regulate these emotions. Destructive emotions can high jack performance and team relationships. They can lead to impulsive behaviors and prevent anyone from making effective decisions.

Managing the psychology of emotions

Coping effectively with these emotions requires a high level of emotional self-awareness. Emotional self-awareness has to do with recognizing your emotions, as well as the impact of these emotions on yourself and others. Furthermore, it will help you to identify the triggers of certain emotional and behavioral reactions. The ability to be emotionally self-aware is one of the fundamental building blocks of emotional intelligence.

The concept of emotional intelligence is broadly structured around “managing ourselves effectively” and “managing others effectively.” Seeing that a soccer player shares the pitch with the rest of his (or her) team, the opponents and officials, it would make sense to focus on team and social relationships and how to manage these effectively.

But there’s no way that you can manage your relationships with others, if you cannot manage yourself well. And managing yourself (your emotions and behavior) is impossible without knowledge of what’s happening inside. The basic principle of self-awareness is somewhat like that of project management you can only manage what you are aware of!

Start in a safe environment

Soccer is an extremely fast-paced game. Trying to focus on the psychology of your emotions while playing, is probably asking too much. Similarly, the corporate world moves very quickly. How can any player or boardroom member increase his or her level of emotional self-awareness while speeding around on the pitch or in the office? It might be a good idea to start working on your self-awareness away from the field or your colleagues, where the competition is less fierce and the stress levels more manageable.

Once you experience self-awareness success in safer environments, the more competitive soccer field or boardroom will provide ample opportunity to practice these skills.

Some psychology tips to help you manage your emotions in stressful situations:

Step 1: Do self-observation and write your observations down in a little notebook. However, simply writing down your experiences will not be enough. You also need to reflect on these experiences by asking yourself thought-provoking questions so that you can develop a deeper level of understanding about yourself. After a while, you will see patterns of emotions, insights and behavior emerging. The knowledge about yourself can guide you in managing yourself and your relationships more effectively.

Step 2: Ask for feedback from others that know you well and that you trust. Not everything people say about you may be true, but it is worthwhile listening to their views. The fact that someone experiences you as always angry, irritated or tired can be invaluable feedback and, as said previously – what you know, you can manage!

Step 3: Listen to your body. If you continuously have tight shoulders, struggle to sleep or wake up clenching your teeth, your body is trying to tell you something! Listen to this message, because once again, what we know we can manage!

Being able to identify your emotions and regulating them are cornerstone ingredients of emotional intelligence. Losing a match is always disappointing. However, researchers have shown that athletes with high levels of emotional intelligence have more positive feelings. And more positive feelings will generally reduce the negative impact of the loss and help the team to face the next opponents with confidence and courage.

 

Psychology and KarinaThis article was authored by Dr Karina de Bruin, Managing Director of the JvR Academy

 

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