Steve Kerr and the Emotions of Basketball

In evaluating players during the recruiting process, coaches often throw out adjectives like athletic, strong, intelligent, and unselfish.  We look for qualities like being aggressive, playing unselfishly, and possessing multiple skills and we consider how focused players are, how coachable they are, and how competitive they are.  One term that has always confused me, though, is when a scout says a player plays with emotion.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  We all have emotions and we all feel things throughout the course of a game, but how we handle those emotions, coaches included, often affects our performance.  I’ve seen players, angry with an opponent’s rough play, respond differently to the same emotion.  In one, the anger propels him to play harder and elevate his play, while in another that same emotion clouds his focus and influences his decisions (see Good Decision Foes: Anger). The point is that emotions play a part of every game, but learning to handle those emotions and to not allow them to dictate how you play is essential for every player and coach, and it’s also something we all need to monitor in the rest of our lives.


Steve KerrI’ve always been a Steve Kerr fan – his playing career, his life story, his work as an announcer and now his coaching the surging Golden state Warriors are all fascinating.  In fact, Warrior games are now a must-see!  As a player, Kerr always seemed in control, ever ready to hit the open shots when defenses geared up to stop Michael Jordan or David Robinson, but he also played with extreme hustle.  He got the most from his ability.  Make no mistake, hustle is not emotion.  Hustle is a choice.  Kerr stayed clam, but he chose to hustle.  Many of us confuse that.  Too often we think that emotion leads to hustle, but that isn’t always true.  You don’t need anger to hustle.  And you don’t need emotional celebrations to lift your play either. That doesn’t produce consistency

As an announcer, Kerr was an analyst who easily gave the real story of not only the action on the court, but the thoughts and preparations of players and coaches alike.  Is anyone really surprised by his seamless transition to coaching?  That is until his emotions got the best of him.  I know, one small slip-up and I’m jumping on him, but really I’m just presenting an example.  With the Warriors riding a 16-game winning streak late into their Tuesday night game with Memphis, Kerr jumped off the bench, waving his arms and expressing his disgust after not getting a traveling call on Mike Conley’s late game lay-up:

The ensuing technical foul put the game out of reach and snapped the winning streak  And while Kerr’s outburst may have been warranted, it still hurt his team.  So even those with the calmest demeanor and those who are typically in control of their emotions can be victims of their own emotions – both coaches and players.

Despite the setback, Kerr’s progress will be fascinating to watch. Chris Mannix from Sports provides a great look at Kerr’s transition to coaching.  I love how Kerr has pulled aspects from his coaching influences like constant ball movement from Gregg Popovich, fostering a positive atmosphere from Phil Jackson, and building fun and energetic practices from the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll.  Most of all, I believe Kerr is one to watch to learn how to handle emotions.

LIFE – Emotional IQ

Emotional IntelligenceOver the last decade the ability to handle emotions has become a major factor in the work world, in education, and in society.  The term Emotional Intelligence as developed by Daniel Goleman has become what many feel is a better predictor of personal success than basic intelligence or IQ.  In other words, you can have all the brains in the world, but if you can’t handle and understand your emotions, you won’t make the most of that intelligence.  It makes sense that the corporate world would pick up on this. The most effective managers of people are those who understand themselves well enough and understand their own emotions well enough that they can positively affect those with whom they work. They have a better chance of building effective relationships that allow them to influence and work well with others.  People with a low Emotional IQ struggle with that and allow their emotions to dictate how they work and how they relate to other people. That’s a not a good thing!

FAITH – Faith is Not an Emotion

Think about your faith life as well.  Do you have times when you feel closer to God and have almost a euphoric sense of peace?  Does it last?  It’s so easy for us as Christians to experience the highs and lows of our faith when we let our emotions dictate our faith. When we attend a powerful worship service, hear an inspirational service, take part in a mission trip or outreach activity, or even have a powerful personal experience with God, it becomes easy to “feel” fired up.  What about when we suffer a setback or a time of distractions when busy schedules or work responsibilities gobble up our time and squeeze out our spiritual life?  Dry times occur when we can’t seem to hear God’s voice or hear through the distractions of the world around us.  We may “feel” disconnected from God or we may “feel” distracted by the world around us, but that’s not what faith is.  Faith is not a feeling or an emotion.  And salvation through Jesus is not based on how we feel:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God  (Ephesians 2:8)

Emotions are inconsistent.  They come and go.  They’re high and they’re low.  And most of all, they don’t save you.  Jesus, the baby in the manager, saves you.  Understand your emotions and learn to control them, but don’t allow them to determine your faith

For more about emotions and faith read Relevant Magazine’s Don’t Let Emotions Dictate Your Faith


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