Harnessing Fear for Athletic Excellence: A Coach’s Perspective

Explore the intertwined relationship between fear, working memory, and sports coaching. How can a coach strategically utilize fear?

We’ve all seen it: coaches on TV or online shouting at their players, expressing frustration as if everything’s going wrong. Being a football coach myself, I often ponder if such confrontational methods truly work. Surely, players should internalize and reflect on their mistakes without being reminded constantly. However, there might be a silver lining to this approach, hidden within our working memory.

Read more: Harnessing Fear for Athletic Excellence: A Coach’s Perspective

Fear & Working Memory in Sports

Legendary coach Frank de Boer’s fierce approach during the match against NEC is a prime example.

Interestingly, to master sports-specific moves, it sometimes helps to sideline the working memory. Studies show fear can park our working memory on the bench. This is evident when considering a charging lion – our immediate instinct is to run, not ponder the options. Two hormones, Adrenaline and Cortisol, spike in such scenarios. They increase blood flow and blood sugar levels, equipping us to handle danger. The more intense these hormones, the less our working memory operates. Hence, in high-stress situations, athletes might perform instinctively, without overthinking.

Crafting the Perfect Stressful Environment

A savvy coach can craft situations where players feel a modicum of ‘fear’. This could be through constructive criticism or highlighting mistakes. The resulting Adrenaline and Cortisol release effectively dampens the working memory.

Consider automated ball launchers in tennis or football. By incrementally increasing their speed and informing players about it, coaches can induce a controlled level of anxiety. This can optimize instinctual responses.

However, balance is crucial. While some stress can boost performance, excessive fear can stifle risk-taking and individual growth. As a football coach, I believe fear can be a tool. Yet, it’s vital to gauge each player’s tolerance. Perhaps, Frank de Boer’s feigned anger isn’t so misplaced after all.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top