What is self-regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to understand and manage your behaviour and your reactions to feelings and things happening around you. It includes being able to:

  • regulate reactions to strong emotions like frustration, excitement, anger and embarrassment.
  • calm down after something exciting or upsetting.
  • focus on a task.
  • refocus attention on a new task.
  • control impulses.
  • behave in ways that help you get- along with other people.

It’s important to remember that on most days, humans go through a wide array of emotions that may influence their overall sense of well-being and that multiple biological, psychological, and environmental factors may cause shifts in mood.

It is also important to remember that we can’t expect youth footballers to show great emotional control all of the time. This is because of brain development during the teenage years.

Recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long- term consequences. Teenagers process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

In Teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making centre are still developing-and not always at the same rate. That’s why when teens have overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling. It’s important to acknowledge that while teens emotional reactions may seem ‘over the top’ to us, the intensity of emotion that your teenage is expressing is exactly what their brains are wired for them to feel at this point in their development.

As a parent remember that the rational part of their brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so and that your son’s/daughter’s teenage brain is still under construction – ‘ A beautiful work in progress’

10 tips to help your son/daughter control their emotions playing football.

Findings of research conducted at Staffordshire University in the UK offers a further 10 ways to control emotion in sport

1. Music

Listening to music is a great way for a footballer to get into the zone. Upbeat or inspirational music for example improves a footballer’s confidence and motivation, leading to better on pitch performance. Music acts as a way to boost arousal levels whilst also helping to block out distracting thoughts. 

2. Self-talk

Negative self-talk leads to a poor emotional state, which in turn hurts a footballer’s performance. Replacing it with positive self-talk such as “I played really well in my last match” or “I’ve succeeded at this before, I know I can now” counters negative emotions and creates positive ones too. This positive self-talk creates helpful emotions such as happiness.

3. Relaxing, positive imagery

If your son/daughter finds themself stressed out over competing or are worried about failing, encourage them to imagine positive scenarios like scoring a goal.

It has been found that imagery focused on toughness, control, and confidence leads to increased motivation, emotion regulation, and self-belief. This is a great technique to do the night before a match or just before you son/daughter goes out to compete.

4. Challenging self-handicapping thoughts

It’s important to encourage your son/daughter to consistently review their behaviour both on pitch and off to ensure it is helping, not hindering their performance. If they are exerting energy and focus on behaviour that is hurting them, they’re wasting energy.

5. Face your fears

Psychologists believe that there are three ways people cope with situations. These are Avoidant, Emotional and Problem Focused. Let’s say you are worried about snakes in your garden. You could decide to never go into your garden again (avoidance focused), or convince yourself that having snakes in your back garden isn’t that bad (emotion focused) or go into your garden and get rid of the snakes (problem focused). 

Whereas avoidance and emotional focused coping may provide a short relief, problem focused coping addresses the issue head on, allowing your son/daughter to make long term gains with their football.

6. Relax your body

Encourage your son/daughter to try tensing their muscles for a few seconds and then consciously relax them to feel a sense of calm, physically as well as mentally. Research shows that this leads to a reduced heart rate, lesser feelings of physical exhaustion, and diminished anxiety. 

7. Learn from others

Try to emulate footballers that deal with emotionally difficult situations well; this is an effective strategy to manage anger and stress. For instance it has been shown that Role-playing exercises off pitch reduce angry behaviour on pitch. The ability to learn from others is a hallmark of developing a growth mindset and a very important life skill.

8. Develop self-awareness

Encourage your son/daughter to keep a journal of where strong emotions arise during play and how they dealt with them. This allows them to identify which emotions are healthy, competitive ones for them and which are not. This is important to know so that they can get the best from their emotional state.

9. Reframe

The more important your son/daughter believes the situation to be, the more likely they are to have a strong emotional response to it. Research suggests that reminding themself that “it’s just another match” can help reduce the noise and intensity that emotions can bring.

10. Take deep breaths

  • Much like muscle relaxation, focusing on taking deep slow breaths can be an important factor in regulating emotion. These breaths increase feelings of relief and lead to lower physical symptoms of negative emotions such as muscle tension.  It also provides a sense of control of the situations, slows things time and gives you space to consider how best to proceed.

Final thoughts

To achieve their potential every footballer needs to learn how to balance their emotions. There is no perfect formula. What works well for someone else is no guarantee that it will work well for your son/daughter. Using some of the techniques described in this post will provide a strong platform to explore what works best for your son/daughter.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me via email

or 0438184994 for a chat or arrange to meet at the club wellness centre on a training night.