Athletes, Social Media, & Emotional Intelligence; Why Coaches Should Care

When working with soccer coaches, both at the youth and collegiate level, I hear of similar complaints: I have no real leaders, players think everything is unfair, and they need a prize or praise for motivation.   After much thought and research in trying to find a common denominator, I strongly believe that at the core of these three observations, we are faced with more and more athletes emotionally impacted by social media and technology use.  ​
There is no question that more and more youth today own or have access to social media and technology.  Although there are many benefits to these advances, there has been a shift in how teens communicate and interact with one another on a daily basis.
Why is this a concern for coaches?  Because researchers have found that there are many lessons learned when physically interacting with another individual and therefore many lost when replaced with “faceless” interactions.
One of the most significant and fundamental losses from increased faceless interactions is the ability to identify emotional limits and develop strategies to manage the ebb and flow of emotional changes.  These lessons are naturally learned in face-to-face interactions because each individual can 1- directly observe, feel, hear and sense emotional outputs from others, 2- determine tolerable intensities, and 3- practice managing instant appropriate reactions or responses.
These emotionally skills – or lack thereof – are translated on the field as a player’s ability to stay calm when under pressure, overcome disappointment after mistakes, stay focused through distractions, and accept defeat when things don’t go as hoped.
Emotional management is not a subject that is taught in school; rather it is something learned from every day interactions either in the classroom, on the field, or at home.  Unfortunately, in today’s society, the time spent communicating and interacting via technology is increasing and replacing time spent developing emotional intelligence.
In fact, Daniel Goleman – the father of Emotional Intelligence – found that today’s youth have less opportunity to learn lessons of cooperation, empathy, and conflict resolution because of the decreasing amount of time spent in face-to-face interactions.
In essence, our youth players of today are slowly losing their ability to perform consistently while managing the emotional rollercoaster of a competitive soccer match.  Instead, they hide behind others, complain of unfairness, and exert effort based upon rewards.
Check out my next blog, which will further explore each of the 3 coaches complaints, how they relate to Goleman’s findings, and offer insight on how coaches can impart change!

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