Is Emotional Intelligence Required for Sports Performance?

Being an athlete isn’t just about brute strength. It takes a certain level of intelligence in order to master the various plays, drills and formations required for the game. For example, football players must memorize hefty playbooks and be ready to recall a play at the drop of a hat. 

But in order to become a top athlete, you’ll need more than brawns and brains. You need the ability to work with others, to effectively manage behavior and navigate the social complexities required for team cohesion. In short, you need emotional intelligence to perform well on the field.

The Four Components of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is comprised of four core skills, all which play a role in the athlete’s ability to become a high performer. These four skills, tied in with their relationship to sports performance, are as follows

1). Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive emotions and stay aware of one’s emotional state. During a game, it’s easy for players to become emotional and lose their focus. In such a competitive environment, players can easily get caught up in the game. However, by understanding your own emotional state, you are better able to compose yourself in the field and perform accordingly.

2). Self Management

Emotional intelligence is more than just recognizing feelings and emotions. Self management is another key component and involves the ability to control one’s emotions and adapt to changing circumstances. When tensions run high and the clock is running low, it is vital for athletes to be able to keep their cool. If they let emotions get the better of them, it may result in a penalty or even a suspension from the game.

3). Social Awareness

Social awareness determines the individual’s ability to pick up on emotions of others and be able to understand the social networks around them. A vital skill for coaches, captains, and team members alike, the ability to empathize and connect with others leads to better teamwork, cohesion and collaboration. Players on the field with high social awareness can better anticipate their team member’s emotional state and whether they are capable of handling a play. By understand the emotions, players able to utilize them to enhance their game and become a top performing athlete. 

4). Relationship Management

Finally, relationship management is the ability to use the awareness of your own and other’s emotions to manage interactions. Using this awareness, individuals are able to inspire, influence, and manage others. Relationship management is a critical skill for leaders, and equips them with a wide set of skills necessary for team management. In addition, this trait plays a role in conflict management, vital for settling disputes among team members.  For captains, coaches, and other leader positions in sports, relationship management will help them create a cohesive team that collaborates effortlessly in the field.

However, if you feel as though you lack in these traits, don’t despair. Emotional intelligence is not a static quality; unlike personality or IQ, it can be trained. With enough practice, an athlete can develop and improve their emotional intelligence, influencing their own ability to become a top performer in the field.

Sara Fletcher is interested in emotional intelligence in leadership and understanding the results of her emotional intelligence assessment test. She loves to explore psychology, business, and sports in relation to her emotional intelligence. 

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