Why 'how our players feel' is critical to their performance.
If you were to ask me what the most important element of sport is, I would reply, "Emotion". That's why we play.
Everything we do is for the emotional response - the endorphin release during training, the dopamine hit after a big play, the oxytocin rush from a teammates hug! When we feel something deeply it makes it meaningful and it lasts.
When we have that balance of the physical, mental and emotional components - the result is powerful. Think about it...how a player feels is the best indicator of loyalty to their teammates and coaches. How they feel is reflected in how they practice and in the work we are asking them to do. This is sport at it's best - powerful action with powerful feeling. The value of an emotionally connected player is twice that of a player who is just 'showing up'. They want to come to every practice. They want to play their best for their teammates. An emotionally connected team buys into the team purpose and culture. They simply practice harder, and perform better.
We need an emotional game plan.
If there is anything I have learned as a coach, it is that creating an emotional game-plan for your team is as important as anything you will do. In fact, compared to the more typical tasks of coaching it is by far the most challenging. Anyone can download a great drill or practice plan. What makes the difference to your players is not the drills or plans themselves, but the feeling and caring behind it. This can take the form of: getting to know your players better, enhancing self-esteem, calling out bright spots, developing worthy roles, establishing team rituals, demonstrating kindness, evoking respect and love for your teammates, practicing gratitude, and so on. The list is long, and critical.
"The stronger the emotional bonds, the greater the chances of a successful season"
We need to bring something to every practice (even something small) to enhance how the players feel about themselves, and how they feel about their team. Life is emotional. Sport is emotional. We need an emotional game plan. If we can get athletes to feel something deeply, we can have an impact on them beyond sport.