Sport – Why Does It Control Us?

Emotion In Sport

As a Performance Coach and Sports Psychologist, I am fascinated by people’s passion, dedication and sometimes all engulfing emotions towards their favourite sport. Some individuals get engrossed in any sport once their focus is drawn to it. I am not just talking about the actual participants, but also from a spectator’s point of view.

I must admit I have a tendency to get ‘caught up in the occasion’ when I am a mere spectator. My two year old son proved evidence of this as he walked into the sitting room, where his Grandfather had just sat down to watch one of the Euro football games this summer. As soon as my boy saw football on the TV, he started shouting “ah man” and “f**k” (shameful I know). I always thought I kept my emotions under control when innocent ears where in range; alas I clearly get too involved emotionally.

Many of us get emotionally involved in sport, from underage level to seniors, from individual sports to team games, whether it is our kids, friends, team mates or ourselves participating. Sport has such a powerful grip on us. It can bring local communities together, lift a nation’s mood out of depression (even for a short while) and on the flip side it can cause rifts between families and life long friends – the Roy Keane / Saipan saga comes to mind here. It was like Collins versus de Valera all over again!

Why does this happen, how can sport control us more than many other parts of our lives?

The reason is because we allow it take over us, we give it our full attention. Nothing else matters in the time it takes to watch a GAA match, to watch a horse race, a big fight, the last few holes in the Masters. As Anthony Robbins says “where our focus goes – energy flows”. When we are connected emotionally with sport, we experience massive highs and depressing lows – our feelings even affect our physiology.  Heart rate fluctuates, muscles tighten and we can be exhausted at the end of an event, even by just sitting on our couch!

We loose ourselves in the competition and forget all the day to day stuff that gets in the way. Sport is a release, an escape for many of us. We want the ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff, the underdog winning – David V’s Goliath. We live on hope and excitement. It drives us and keeps us alive.

Stephen Maguire

Smart Performance –  Sports Performance Coach

Ph: 087 6346550



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