In The Power of Positive Leadership Jon Gordon wrote, “Optimism, positivity, and belief are the fuel that positive leaders need to keep moving forward and drive results.” Whether you agree or not, it is hard to deny that athletes play better when they’re having fun, enjoying the moment, and are surrounded by people they genuinely love.
The Positive Movement
You’ve probably noticed a shift in coaching at all levels. Coaches are moving away from the demanding drill sergeant to become more positive. This doesn’t merely mean having a better attitude and patting everyone on the back. In fact, positive coaching is a blending of scientific fields aimed at generating the best possible performance of your team.
As I shared recently, coaches can be both supportive and demanding. That is a big change in perspective that this positive movement is sharing with coaches today.
However, what good is being “positive” anyway? Can simply being positive help a team improve their results? If you’re like many other coaches, you might be a bit skeptical.
What Being Positive Means
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has devoted her career to the study of positive emotions. She has found that positive emotions are powerful, every bit as much as more familiar emotions such as anger and worry. However, they produce a vastly different result.
Fredrickson’s research carries profound implications for the worlds of sports, coaching, and peak performance.
In fact, Daniel Goleman’s research found that positive teams perform at a higher level than negative teams. Martin Seligman found the same results when comparing optimistic thinkers and pessimistic thinkers.
Positive emotions open the minds of athletes to more creative, flexible, and innovative ways of thinking and acting on and off the field.
As a coach, being positive means infusing your team with more positive emotions throughout the sport experience.
Does Your Team Need More Positivity?
Athletes who experience more positive emotions will think quicker, be more adaptive, and find better solutions to in-game situations.
More specifically, there are 5 game-changing reasons to infuse your team with more positivity.
1. Improved Mental Agility
According to Fredrickson’s Broaden Theory, positive emotions have a “broadening effect on the momentary thought-action repertoire.” This translates to athletes thinking more flexibly under the pressures of competition.
2. Less Stress
Why do players and coaches try to lighten the mood when the team feels stressed? In fact, the reason is scientific. Positive emotions have an undoing effect on the negative effects of negative emotions. This means that athletes who feel tense from nervousness or anxiety would loosen up by feeling positive emotions such as amusement or gratitude.
The Cubs’ Joe Maddon leveraged this truth when he hired a magician to entertain the team and turned a slump into a three-game sweep of the Mets in 2015.
3. Better Problem Solving
When the brain is less stressed and experiences positive emotions, the Broaden Theory tells us athletes are able to choose the best response from a wider array of possibilities. If you want your athletes to make better decisions on and off the court, positive emotions are in your corner.
4. Increased Cohesion
Research shows that teams who experience a positive-to-negative interaction ratio greater than 3:1 are more successful and get along better.
5. Greater Commitment
When coaches praise the process, a way to share constructive positive feedback, that expression of appreciation instills pride in their athletes. This exchange of positive emotions builds a connection and fosters trust between the coach and player. When we feel connected to others, we’re willing to give more of ourselves to the cause.
Bring the Positivity
I’m not saying you need to kiss your players on the cheek like Texas football coach Tom Herman. Nor am I saying you need to give everyone a hug like the Dodger’s GM, Dave Roberts. I simply encourage you to find creative ways to help your team experience more positive emotions. Offer praise. Have fun. Lead with positivity.
Question: What difference do you think more positive emotions would make in your team?
- Book: Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson
- Book: The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon
- Book: Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
- Book: Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
- Book: The Cubs Way by Tom Verducci
- Post: Is It Better to Be a Supportive or Demanding Coach?
- Post: How to Help Your Athletes Avoid Costly Impulsive Reactions
- Post: Good Job Isn’t Good Enough: What It Means to Praise the Process
- Resource: InSideOut Initiative
- Resource: Positive Coaching Alliance