Sporting Positive Mindsets

Emotions affect performance in sports


Lindsey Mathieu

The JV tennis team holds a team meeting dring practice on Sept. 20.

by Emma Trussell, Photo Editor

Most serious athletes push themselves to do their best by practicing consistently and thinking of new ways to improve—all with the goal of winning in mind, but a big role in how they play is tied into the mentality they carry. Leading a team to victory can be influenced by encouraging team members to keep a positive mindset despite the obstacles they may face.

“I feel team mentality is super important in volleyball because it’s such a team sport,” senior varsity volleyball captain Jenna Deggs said. “If one person gets up, makes a good play or has a lot of energy, then that brings other people up with them, but at the same time if one person starts going downhill, that can bring the team downhill.”

In team sports, each individual’s emotions affect how the team operates. As Psychology Today describes, if one team member becomes overwhelmingly negative, it is destructive to the entire team. Team members may focus on the negative attitude of others instead of their own job. Negative emotions can be triggered by the slightest of failures, so teams set priorities on learning how to stay positive.

“Before meets, we usually like to hype each other up, saying that we’re a good team and we’re strong,” senior varsity swim captain Maryann Tran said. “There’s a saying that a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer, so we take that positive energy and we have more fun and we swim better.”

To stay positive, teams and individuals can use the strategy of goal setting, a practice proven effective in boosting confidence. Setting attainable goals and maintaining a positive mentality helps athletes in achieving them.

“We’re in one of the hardest districts, so it was hard to stay positive and not just assume I’d lose but [instead be] brave, [go] to the net and [go] for shots I might not ordinarily go for, and being positive [helps],” senior tennis captain Allie Dyer said.

Emotions do not always have to get in the way of an athlete’s success. It can work for, rather than against, them. Following routines and staying in a positive mindset helps the individual to focus on doing well, not what they have done wrong. Working in this mindset as a team can boost overall morale and help the group achieve a common goal.

“By setting goals, we can strive for a bigger accomplishment,” Tran said. “My accomplishment right now is to make state, but I can’t do that alone. During practice, I have my teammates push me every day and we work on things together, so I have a positive attitude towards that goal.”

If a team lets one negative experience infect their team spirit, it could lead to multiple failures following. Keeping a team in a positive mindset is an important job for the team leader. Encouraging the team to stay optimistic, even while or after losing, can prevent future failures. This phenomenon is known as the emotional domino effect; one person’s emotions can send ripples through the whole team, affecting everyone.

“Confidence is what I preach,” senior varsity football captain Zachary Nwachukwu said. “Whenever we’re losing, we can’t stay down. [You’ve] got to stay confident to [do well].”

Ultimately emotions are the deciding factor in how an athlete will perform, sitting on top of the Prime Sports Pyramid. The Prime Sports Pyramid contains five mental factors that influence athletic performance. Starting from bottom up they are motivation, confidence, intensity, focus and emotions. Since emotions are the most important and influencing factor of the pyramid, focusing on controlling emotions while participating in sports can help a person perform better.

“Everyone matters at the end of the day,” Deggs said. “It’s really important to make sure the entire team has a winning mentality and [has] competitiveness, but [also doesn’t get] distracted by all the other things that will happen on game days.”