Science of People - Logo

New Study Reveals Surprising Way We Get Stressed

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Sports have a unique ability to captivate and unite people across the globe. From the roaring crowds at a soccer match to the shared pride of a hometown team’s victory, sports can evoke intense emotions in fans. 

But what is the psychology behind this passion for sports, and how can both fans (and professionals) manage their emotions when they need it the most? 

This article delves into the world of sports fandom, exploring the reasons behind the passion, the sense of unity it fosters, and the physiological effects of watching a game. Finally, we offer practical tips for managing emotions during a game, ensuring a healthy and enjoyable experience for all.

The study1 investigates the connection between cortisol levels and fans’ emotional attachment to their soccer teams. 

Why Sports Can Make People More Passionate

The passion for sports stems from various psychological factors. One of the primary reasons is the sense of belonging and identification that fans experience when they support a team. This attachment, known as identity fusion, can lead to increased emotional investment in the team’s performance. Fans often see their team’s success as a reflection of their own, creating a strong emotional bond between the individual and the group.

Another factor contributing to the passion for sports is the unpredictability and excitement of the game. The suspense and anticipation of not knowing the outcome can lead to an adrenaline rush, making the experience more thrilling and engaging for fans.

Lastly, sports often provide a platform for fans to express their emotions and connect with others who share the same passion. This shared experience can foster a sense of camaraderie and unity, further intensifying the emotional connection to the game.

How People Unite Through Sports

Sports have a unique ability to bring people together, transcending cultural, social, and geographical boundaries. Fans from diverse backgrounds can unite in their shared support for a team, creating a sense of belonging and connection. This unity is often reinforced through rituals and traditions, such as wearing team colors, attending games, or participating in pre-game festivities.

Moreover, sports can also serve as a common language, allowing fans to bond over their shared knowledge and experiences. This shared passion can bridge the gap between people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to connect, fostering a sense of community and understanding.

Sports Fans And Cortisol

Recent studies have shown that devoted sports fans experience fluctuations in cortisol levels during live games. Cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone,” is released in response to stressful situations. The study found that fans with a strong emotional attachment to their team, or identity fusion, had higher cortisol concentrations than those with a weaker connection.

Furthermore, watching a loss was associated with particularly high cortisol concentrations, highlighting the physiological impact of a team’s performance on fans. This finding suggests that emotional investment in sports can impact fans’ physical well-being.

In addition, you can apply the same theory to professionals in the workplace. When a company wins over a client, for example, they may feel reinforced connection and bonding, with high cortisol release.

How to Manage Emotions During An Event

While experiencing intense emotions during any event can be exhilarating, it’s essential to manage these emotions to ensure a healthy and enjoyable balance. Here are some practical tips for managing emotions.

Practice mindfulness and self-awareness

Being present and aware of your emotions can help you recognize when they become overwhelming. Practicing mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation, can help you stay grounded and focused during the game. Regularly practicing these techniques can train your mind to be more resilient in the face of intense emotions.

Additionally, self-awareness is crucial in understanding your emotional triggers and identifying patterns in your behavior. Reflect on past experiences and consider how you typically react to certain situations. This self-awareness can help you develop strategies to manage your emotions more effectively.

Want more? Check out 30 Mindfulness Activities To Keep Your Mind Calm (At Any Age)

Set realistic expectations

Remember that no team can win every game, and it’s essential to accept the possibility of defeat (or the loss of a client). Setting realistic expectations can help you manage disappointment and maintain a balanced perspective. Be honest with yourself about your company or team’s strengths and weaknesses, and recognize that even the best teams experience setbacks.

By tempering your expectations, you can avoid becoming overly invested in the outcome. This can help you maintain a more balanced emotional state and prevent extreme reactions to wins or losses.

Find healthy outlets for emotions

Channel your emotions into positive activities, such as cheering for your team, engaging in humor with coworkers or other fans, or participating in other hobbies. Some people find it helpful to engage in physical activities, such as playing a sport or running to release pent-up energy and emotions.

Avoid resorting to aggressive or destructive behaviors, as these can negatively impact your well-being and the enjoyment of others. If you become overly emotional, consider stepping away for a moment to regain your composure. Try learning about emotions and what they really mean: The Ultimate List of Emotions and How to Control Your Emotions

Stay connected with others

Sharing your experiences with others can help diffuse intense emotions and foster a sense of camaraderie. Engage in conversations, share your thoughts, and support each other through the ups and downs.

Taking a break can also help you regain your composure and return to the game with a refreshed mindset.

Consider stepping outside for some fresh air, engaging in a calming activity, or simply taking a few moments to collect your thoughts. Remember that it’s okay to take a step back when necessary, and doing so can help you maintain your emotional well-being.

Remember the bigger picture

While events like giving a presentation or watching sports can evoke strong emotions, keeping things in perspective is important. Remember that it’s just a game, and there are more important aspects of life to focus on. By maintaining a balanced outlook, you can enjoy the excitement of sports without letting it consume you.

When emotions run high, remind yourself of the positive aspects of being a sports fan, such as the sense of community, the opportunities for personal growth, and the enjoyment of watching talented athletes compete. Focusing on these positive aspects can help you maintain a healthy perspective on your emotional investment in sports.

Develop coping strategies

Coping strategies are essential tools for managing emotions during a game or at work. These strategies can help you regain control over your emotions and prevent them from negatively impacting your well-being. Some effective coping strategies include:

  1. Distraction: Shift your focus away from the game for a moment by engaging in a different activity or conversation.
  2. Reframing: Change your perspective on the situation by focusing on the positive aspects or finding humor in the situation.
  3. Relaxation: techniques: Use deep breathing, visualization, or progressive muscle relaxation to calm your mind and body.
  4. Self-talk: Speak to yourself in a positive and encouraging manner, reminding yourself that it’s just a game and that your emotions are temporary.

The more coping strategies you develop, the easier it gets for you to manage your conditions. And, the easier it gets, the more concentrated you may feel. Developing a coping strategy is essentially important because you identify what works best for you. You are able to spot the right methods for evaluating the results yourself and finding the best answers yourself. 

In conclusion, sports have a unique ability to evoke intense emotions and unite people from all walks of life. By understanding the psychology behind sports fandom and employing strategies to manage emotions during a game or at work, you can enjoy a truly happier experience.

Want more? Check out our Science of People research hub or head on over to read about 10 Effective Tips On How To Lead A Strengths-Based Team

How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

Do you have a difficult boss? Colleague? Client? Learn how to transform your difficult relationship.
I’ll show you my science-based approach to building a strong, productive relationship with even the most difficult people.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Get our latest insights and advice delivered to your inbox.

It’s a privilege to be in your inbox. We promise only to send the good stuff.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.