In this section, Dr. Sharon P. Misasi and Dr. David Kemler of Southern Connecticut State University will answer questions about sports psychology and how it relates to our athletes, and the games we play.
Q: We’ve all seen it. A crazy coach loses his mind with an official, his face beat red and his veins bursting. He’s shouting at the top of his lungs, and it looks like he’s going to have a stroke or run out of oxygen.
Of course, he says something he shouldn’t, and he gets tossed. But it doesn’t end there. He throws a chair across the free throw line, rips out second base and chucks it, or pretends that the resin bag on the mound is a grenade.
Well, maybe not all the time.
Still, incidents between coaches and officials have become part of sports culture. Former UConn coach Jim Calhoun has had plenty of those himself. Legendary Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight is one of the most notorious instigators. Knight has lost his temper countless times, including that famous chair-throwing incident.
Athletes aren’t immune to temporarily losing their minds while jarring with an official, either. The worst examples include Baltimore Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar spitting on an umpire, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays prospect Delmon Young throwing his bat at one.
Athletes and coaches often talk about the emotion in the heat of the moment, but sometimes that emotion can backfire in a way that doesn’t just provide for great YouTube clips.
How can an athlete keep their emotions in check and their head in the game?
A: Many athletes argue under the belief that they are equal to the officials on the field. Another way to think about this is to imagine that the athlete and official are playing a game of poker.
The athlete has jokers, and the official has aces. Should the athlete try to trump the official? Of course not. So, why argue with the official during the game? It’s not going to affect the calls, and may only make the situation worse.
Athletes must realize that they can only control one thing, and that is how they react. If their energy is focused on the official, they cannot attend to the game at hand, and their performance will suffer. Their energy needs to be focused on the task at hand.