I am sitting in my office saddened by the behavior of young athletes during this bowl season. The latest casualty of “stupid college student behavior” is a young man who had a bright future in professional sports. Perhaps he still does, but he has tarnished his reputation and could have cost his team a bowl win by his immature behavior. He certainly ended his college football career prematurely.
It started in a bar – that was just the first place emotional self-control could have helped. It escalated into shoving bar employees around. It ended as friends were trying to drag the belligerent athlete back to his hotel. The police arrived and our erstwhile QB was totally out of control. He was throwing punches and one landed in the direction of a police officer.
I always get a sick feeling when I think of the ways incidents like this could have been avoided. That’s the real reason I am dedicated to teaching emotional intelligence – the brain science and the social science – to young athletes and their coaches. I teach to give them a competitive advantage in their sport and to give them skills to avoid events like this. Understanding our behaviors so we can avoid emotional hijacks is critical to any success – on the football field, in the boardroom, or in a bar before an important game.
Emotional intelligence happens over time, not overnight. If you want to create a team culture (sports or otherwise) that understands its triggers and can choose self-control, the time to start is now – well before the championship games, the starting gun, or the beginning of the season. It’s a great New Year’s resolution – to teach people the art and science of self-understanding and self-control. It’s our responsibility.
Because when the pressure’s on, being in control is critical.