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How did Novak Djokovic weaponise his emotions to enhance his performance?


It's no secret that emotions play a role in our lives. We experience a wide range of emotions daily, and they can often dictate our moods and how we behave. But what about our sporting performances? Can our emotions impact how well we do when we're competing? The answer is yes - emotions can significantly impact our athletic performance.

What is an emotion, and how does it influence mood?

An emotion is a complex mental state which can be experienced physically, behaviorally and cognitively and is a response to an internal or external stimulus. It usually combines physiological arousal, cognitive appraisal, and behavioural expressions. Emotions allow us to experience the world meaningfully, from joy to grief, anger to love, and they help us to understand our environment, ourselves and the people around us.

Moods are a longer-lasting emotional state that athletes can describe as having either a positive or negative affective tone. Like emotions, they tend to last for days or weeks rather than seconds or minutes.

What does the research say about emotion and sporting performance?

The research within this field has shown that emotions and moods can significantly impact sports performance. Performance levels tend to be higher when athletes feel positive emotions, such as excitement or joy, than when they feel negative emotions, such as anxiety or sadness. Athletes' ability to manage their emotions can also affect performance levels. Academics have set up mood performance scales to try and identify gains and predict performance, but athletes did not easily apply the methods in a real-world setting (Beed et al. 2000). One method that showed greater returns was the IZOF model we spoke about in our previous article. Elements still missing are how moods can be observed and challenged so the athletes can improve performance. This means that an athlete or player can adapt in the moment. We will look at this further in future articles.

Novak Djokovic

One famous story about an athlete who recognised their emotions and used this to improve their performance is the story of tennis player Novak Djokovic. After struggling with his form for several months in 2016, Djokovic decided to take a step back and look at his overall well-being. He realised that part of the problem was that he was letting his own emotions get in the way of his performance. He began working on techniques that allowed him to be aware of his emotions and manage them better during matches. This ultimately led to Djokovic winning the 2016 French Open, and he has since spoken publicly about how this awareness and emotional management helped him retake control of his game.

How can athletes learn to manage their emotions for better performance?

Athletes can learn to manage their emotions for better performance by recognising what triggers them and understanding how their emotions may impact their performance. This can include being familiar with the different types of emotions, such as fear, excitement, anger, or frustration and recognising when they influence their performance. It also involves learning techniques to help regulate these emotions, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and positive self-talk. Additionally, athletes can benefit from talking with a Mental Performance Coach who can train them to identify emotional triggers and provide strategies for managing emotions during competition.


Athletes can disrupt emotions and moods, so they need to be aware of their emotional states and how they impact their performance. We will look further into the in our next article. Take the time to train this; it will make you stand out. Get in touch if you'd like to find out how.

References and further reading

Beedie, C.J., Terry, P.C., Lane, A.M., 2000 The profile of mood states and athletic performance: two meta-analyses. J. Appl. Sport Psychol. 12, 49-68

Hanin, Y.L. (Ed.), 2000. Emotions in sport. Human Kinetics, Champaign. IL

Nieuwenhuys, A., Hanin, Y., Bakker, F.C., 2008 Performance-related experiences and coping during races: a case study of an elite salor. Psychol. Sport and Exerc. 9, 61-76


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