Emotion As Part Of The
by Sidney Goldstein
Copyright © 2003
Often I hear coaches and sports announcers
talk about a team playing with or without emotion. The adage,
emotion is a big part of the game, if not explicitly stated,
is just assumed to be true.
I want to explore how emotion is related to the game and how
coaches should use emotion to their advantage and that of the
In a psychological sense, emotion is the driving force behind
everything that we do. The high school student wanting to be
a surgeon studies hard to achieve this goal. Maybe a parent,
another family member, or someone he/she looks up to is a doctor.
Maybe the image of doctor portrayed on a TV show or just the
idea of making a lot of money and being respected is appealing.
Whatever the reason, the drive to be a surgeon is an emotional
The act of becoming a doctor requires study, which involves the
opposite of emotion: calmness. It's difficult to study with anything
on the mind. Once a doctor, surgery needs to be performed in
a calm, cool, rehearsed and practiced way. Again, emotion gets
in the way.
We could talk about the student wanting to become a diamond cutter
or any other profession. The desire to make money or do a good
job is an emotional one. The act of cutting the diamond requires
calm, cool, precision.
So, do we expect basketball players to play with emotion? Can
thinking about something emotionally help play? Would emotion
get in the way of a last minute shot? Or do we want players performing
calm and cool, just like the surgeon and diamond cutter? The
bottom line is that emotion gets in the way of proper play. And
like the surgeon or diamond cutter, a player needs to play calm,
cool and rehearsed.
Here's where many folks get emotion confused with hustle. Do
players need to hustle? Of course, but hustle does not involve
emotion, it involves practice. So, you need to work on hustle
in basketball practice.
And hustle drills should not be a small part of practice. All
drills in my books are relegated to one of three levels. Level
one drills, which involve working on mechanics of movement, are
done slowly. Level two drills involve practice level drills done
in a relaxed manner. Game level, level 3, or hustle drills are
done all out, full speed. Often you make these drills a bit harder
by putting the offense or defense at a disadvantage. Here are
a few examples of game level hustle drills. Don't try these drills
without understanding the entire offensive or defensive scheme.
1. Catch Up Drill in
The offense starts at the top of the key with the ball. The defense
starts one step behind. The offense dribbles to the basket for
a layup with the defender at the heels. The defense is supposed
to catch up, then go 3 feet past the driver before playing defense.
No reaching in from the side.
2. Three Yard Drill in brief
One way to do this drill. The offense starts at midcourt without
a ball and sprints back and forth as well as side to side. The
defender must stay 3 yards from the offense for this 20 second
I want to say a few other things about emotion.
1. Remember that everything you do needs to be emotionally geared
to the game. Put tremendous pressure on players at practice,
so real game pressure won't effect players.
2. Over emotional displays after a dunk or good play hurt a team
because emotion takes the mind off the task at hand. After a
dunk players need to sprint back to defense, not do a high five.
You are making some big mistakes in practice if players think
they have time for high fives.
3. As a coach, one of your toughest jobs is to keep players focused
and calm every game, especially before a big game. One, never
tell players that this is a big game, that everything including
the coach's job depends on it. If you do, then you deserve to
loose your job. Players know instinctively when a game is big.
They keep track even more than you. Downplay everything, Better
yet, don't react at all. Take every game the same way. Before
every game talk to each player individually, focusing them on
the most important 1 or 2 things.
4. About the coach's emotion at games. From experience, bad experience,
I can tell you that if you are emotional, players will sense
this, reacting for the worst. I lost 9 out of 9 close games my
first year coaching, because when things got tough I yelled louder
and jumped higher. I learned my lesson well losing only one close
game in the next 7 years at this school.
5. Another example of improper use of emotion, often initiated
by the coach, involves the team cheer at the beginning of the
game. Players usually from a circle putting hands together giving
a big cheer like, "Let's Go". Skip the emotional outburst.
Instead, calm players by saying a prayer or something thanking
whatever gods that be that you are here, safe, and able to play
the great game of basketball.
Your comments are welcome.
Sidney Goldstein, author of
The Basketball Coach's Bible and The Basketball Player's Bible,
has successfully coached both men's and women's teams over a
period of 15 years.