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empathy in sport

What empathy means

Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in another person's shoes and see their world as they see it.

Empathy in sport is about trying to understand the views and feelings of a coach, competitor or team mate without judging whether you think their views and opinions are right.

Empathy along with warmth and genuineness are necessary for openness and communication between a coach and an athlete and between an athlete and other members of the team.


Empathy gives you the ability to read other people--your competitors, your team members, your partner and your manager. It enables you to gauge how other people are feeling and it enables you to respond appropriately.

Empathy is about noticing small signs that signal how other people are feeling that enable you to gain a competitive edge when you are competing.

Keys to empathy

Here are some keys to what you need to do to demonstrate empathic behavior.

  Imagine yourself in another person's position and try to see the world as they see it and feel it.  
  Take time to learn about people’s personal situations, views and concerns.  
  In conversations, look like you care and ask questions to show that you are interested in what your coach or team mates are saying.  
  Acknowledge cultural differences among competitors and recognize the value in those differences.  
  Avoid personal celebrity and aim for a combination of extreme professional determination and outward personality modesty.  
Watch for the warning signs of stress and burnout in people around you.


Watch this video

To develop your understanding of empathy, watch this video by Brené Brown talking about the need to have empathy for others.


Read this book

Read Real Dream Teams: Seven Practices Used by World-Class Team Leaders to Achieve Extraordinary Results (St Lucie) by Robert Fisher and Bo Thomas.