“I do what you do”: Youth athletes’ emotion regulation is related to what their teammates do


As effective emotion regulation is important for performance, youth athletes must learn to regulate their emotions. Extending previous research that largely focused on intrapersonal mechanisms, recent researchers have emphasized the need to consider the social processes through which athletes learn emotion regulation. Focusing on two most-researched strategies (cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression), the present study examined the relationships between athletes’ perceptions of their teammates’ and coaches’ emotion regulation (i.e., descriptive norms) and their own emotion regulation. Using the theory of normative social behavior, athletes’ social identity with their team and perceptions of approval of emotion regulation (i.e., injunctive social norms) were examined as moderators. Online surveys were administered to collect responses from 169 youth athletes who were aged 15.5 years on average, and the data were analyzed using the PROCESS macro in SPSS. Across the results, there were no significant effects involving coach descriptive norms. For cognitive reappraisal, there was a positive main effect of teammate descriptive norms, which increased as a function of injunctive norms (positive moderation). For expressive suppression, as opposed to teammate descriptive norms, teammate injunctive norms had a positive main effect, and there was negative moderation, whereby teammate descriptive norms were positively related to expressive suppression only under conditions of lower injunctive norms. The visibility of the two strategies may explain the different findings: because teammates’ expressive suppression is likely less noticeable than cognitive reappraisal, athletes’ expressive suppression may depend more on injunctive norms (i.e., teammates’ explicit approval) than descriptive norms (i.e., teammates’ expressive suppression usage).