Controlling Emotions

A note from Badger Parent Advocate, Mike Conaton:

I felt so bad for Jordan Spieth as his second ball went in the water at the 12th hole during the last round of the Masters. Never thought it would be possible to blow a lead like that but a quadruple bogey can do it. Everyone in attendance and probably millions watching on TV seemed devastated. But you know who didn’t (at least appear) devastated…was Jordan Spieth.

We’ve all read about how important mental toughness and composure are for an athlete to command…but what about those around them? Coaches? …and even parents?

Jordan Spieth’s caddie didn’t seem to express a lot of emotion either. In fact, it is part of his job to keep his golfer focused and in the moment. I thought he did a remarkable job.

What about coaches? I will admit I was pretty excited when Villanova’s Kris Jenkins sunk a buzzer beater for the win over UNC in the NCAA Basketball Championship. While I didn’t necessarily have strong feelings for either team, I definitely got into the emotion of the game and probably even let out a little whoop with that last shot. How could any sports-loving person not? Jay Wright didn’t. I noticed right away the remarkable restraint the head coach of the Wildcats demonstrated. Later there were many articles written about his reaction, one of which is featured here.

http://www.businessinsider.com/villanova-jay-wright-explains-calm-reaction-ncaa-win-2016-4

Wright would say he was still in the coaching moment and not sure the game was actually over so he was thinking about the next play. Great coaching and that state of mind aside, I have to believe there was much more at play than that. Wright also said “I’m the adult. I got all these 18- and 22-year-olds around me”. Clear indication that the coach sets the tone for the team; Sets the example for the team; Controls the emotion of the team that can work in its favor to channel focus and aggression. It can also work in a negative way if a lack of discipline by the coach results in players with the propensity to lose their cool and self-destruct with fouls or poor play to the detriment of the team.

I discussed the general topic recently with a very accomplished age group and former college swimming coach who I met at a recent big meet as he was watching some of his former pupils. I asked him about the parents’ role with their kids in this area. He said it was important to “control the modulation of the amplitude”. What? “You know”, he said, “keep the sine wave steady”. Oh right, “gotcha yea”, I said, as I made a mental note to visit the dictionary when I got home. This guy was pretty smart and, kidding aside, explained to me with what I thought was a great analogy, the importance of keeping our ups and downs, highs and lows, in control. He said we set an example for our kids – Our reactions and emotions influence our kids whether we realize it or not. We have the ability to keep them humble and grounded with perspective during the highs, and keep their spirits up, again with proper perspective during the lows. Temper the highs so the lows aren’t so low.

I understand it’s just like a coach, and especially a swimming coach to impart on THE KIDS that they can always do better – never be satisfied; don’t over celebrate. Of course recognize a milestone and acknowledge the hard work it took to get there – but use that milestone as the stepping stone to the next level. Keep working hard.

But can’t PARENTS celebrate just a little? Enjoy the moment just a little?

At the same big meet, I congratulated a mother whose son had made finals. She was of course beaming but pretty contained, and very gracious. She then also shared with me that she had just heard from her husband who was away with their daughter who had just won another huge event. She was definitely having a good day. I’d want to do cartwheels. But as she was telling me all this incredible good news, in the same sentence, almost apologetically, she said, “remember we’ve had other days too, you know”.

And so the life of the swimming parent goes – taking the good with the bad, rolling with the punches, and supporting the kids to the next milestone.

Michael Conaton, Badger Swim Club Inc. and Badger Swimming Inc. accept no liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.
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