Self-control on the playing field is over-rated… or at least active efforts towards it. There is no doubt that unchecked anger and drifting attention are detriments to performance. Yet, how to achieve positive emotions and a resilient focus needs to be considered. In many regards keeping one’s cool when referees make undesirable calls and maintaining concentration in the face of particularly pesky opponents happens well before the ball is officially put in play.
In essence the most impressive displays of mental toughness occur rather effortlessly… or to be more precise, they are displays of automatic self-control. This is not to say that in-game cue words, mental imagery, or diaphragmatic breathing are not helpful, but they simply too often lack the robust benefits that effortless self-control mechanisms deliver. Active efforts to control one’s self reduce the ability to successfully control one’s self in the future. Plainly put, each time a conscious effort is made to regulate emotions there is a cost to future cognitive abilities… attention is a bit more likely to wander… frustration creeps in more easily…. decision making becomes a bit less precise. Just like physical muscles, mental muscles fatigue.
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