Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao matched up on Monday for the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup (a competition between the winning teams of La Liga and the Copa del Rey). Going into the game, Barcelona had to score four goals to catch up to Athletic in aggregate and earn the championship title. Barcelona began the second half up 1-0, but that momentum was short-lived. Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was sent off hardly ten minutes into the second half on a straight red card, earned for foul and abusive language toward a linesman. Pique was reacting to what could be argued as a missed offside call, which could have led to a goal against his team. Although the play led to a corner kick, and not a goal, Pique demonstrated a noticeable lack of emotional composure that ultimately cost him the remaining minutes of the Super Cup game, as well as the opportunity to play in the first La Liga game this upcoming weekend. Barcelona ended the match in a 1-1 draw, which awarded Athletic the championship title.
Many things are out of your control in soccer, or any other sport. However, your recovery from mistakes, your attitude, and your reaction to adversity are within your control. In this instance, Pique could not control the referee’s decision, but he could control his reaction to what he considered a poor call. Managing your emotions during the height of competition is much easier said than done. But, it is a skill you can develop with deliberate training. One strategy is to manage your focus. Keep your attention on what you can control. In order to do this, use refocusing cues like “let it go” or “get organized for the next play” to help you think about what you need to do next, rather than something you cannot change (like the referee’s decision). This will take some getting used to, because your initial emotional reaction might be strong, but if you consistently practice this strategy in training, it will become easier to use and more effective over time. Another strategy you can add to this to help you manage your emotions is to take a centering breath. This is another way to help you shift your focus away from what you can’t control. After using a refocusing cue, try taking a centering breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose, bringing the air down into your stomach. Slowly release the breath out of your mouth and try to release any tension you feel as you exhale. Keep in mind that this will only be effective at certain points in a game, like at a stoppage in play. Work on these skills consistently to enhance your emotional management and be prepared to handle the highs and lows of competition.
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