Emotions –vs- Feelings Written By Dalton Ruer
The simplest academic definition I could find said that emotions are the physiological reactions that occur as a result of the changes that happen to us. Our feelings are the cognitive responses to those emotions.
My translation is that emotions are what we feel internally and feelings are what we show externally to others.
So what does this have to do with softball? Everything!!!!!
Our feelings are how we show the world who we are, and this is especially true for girls. Males and females both experience emotions. If a male suppresses his emotions and shows no feelings he’s considered “soulful” “contemplative” “disciplined.” But if a female buries those emotions and shows no feelings she’s “cold” and “heartless.” As a parent I can confirm that men and women both experience the emotions of their children being injured, of their children experiencing heartache, of their children experiencing the negative side of injustices. But according to society females are supposed to be the ones that “show their feelings” as a result of those emotions while men are supposed to “bury them.” Men aren’t supposed to cry at the water cooler when they share stories of those things, yet that is what we actually expect from women. So it seems rather odd to me then that when we walk onto the softball field we would suddenly expect females to suddenly complete suppress their feelings or condemn those that completely suppress their feelings.
There are 8 basic emotions all of us filter changes to our environment through: Joy, Trust, Fear, Surprise, Saddness, Disqust, Anger and Anticipation. There are also 8 basic feelings that we show to the world Optimism, Love, Submission, Awe, Disappointment, Remorse, Contempt and Aggression. There are societal norms that surround which emotions you should have regarding interactions and which feelings should be shown in response to each of the emotions. For example if your emotions are joy and anticipation it’s ok to feel optimistic. If you experience joy and trust it’s ok to feel love.
Societal norms are great for textbooks but awful for real life and for softball teams. Each and every player is unique. Each has a unique background and set of experiences through which they filter those chemical changes occurring in their body. How you interpret a situation and how they interpret it can be completely opposite and that can be the most difficult situation you ever encounter as a coach.
That brilliant shortstop athletically may have had a difficult time trusting people in her past. Just when she allowed the joy and trust she felt emotionally to manifest itself as love outwardly someone then proceeded to break her heart. How have the coaches in her past reacted to that? They encounter sad emotions because she doesn’t overly respond to their outreach and their feelings show disappointment so they cut her, bench her or start singling her out with criticism. Can you see a negative cycle forming that is going to go way beyond the field?
That pitcher you have who can make the ball dance. You interpret that she’s afraid to fail, but the truth is she’s afraid to succeed. Because her optimism in the past was betrayed so many times that she now reacts to emotions of anticipation and joy by displaying aggression instead. We might label her as jaded and convince ourselves she just doesn’t fit in with our team.
How about that lightening quick center fielder that everyone calls naïve or childish? While most on the team show disappointment in regards to a situation she displays optimism. Being the caring coaches we are we reward her past conditioning with a harsh “she doesn’t even care if we lose” and allow players to chastise her for not acting like they are.
The next time you find yourself focusing just on the skills of the game and getting upset with a player because she outwardly displays different feelings than most in response to emotion remember that you are coaching players not robots. Just because a player steps onto the field doesn’t mean that she checks her 10, 14 or 18 years of environmental conditioning at the fence.
Instead of showing players that all you care about is the score of games come up to the level of your calling as a coach and prove to them that you care about them as a human being.
Dalton Ruer: Coach Ruer has been using softball to encourage and motivate athletes for 15 years. Throughout the year he is a private softball instructor to many college bound athletes in Georgia. He facilitates team based clinics and instructs at many elite and college recruiting softball camps. His specialties are helping players verbalize their dreams and establish a plan to achieve them and helping players overcome the fears that are holding them back from being exceptional athletes. He has produced 6 instructional DVD’s covering all aspects of how to win the short game and how to dive for the ball. Keep up with Coach Dalton by visiting his blog and resource site at CrossTrainingSoftball.com.
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