Emotional intelligence is a popular construct associated to business, education, health and more recently sport. There is clear evidence to substantiate that emotional intelligence is beneficial for performance. A number of characteristics associated to emotional intelligence include, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The purpose of this article demonstrates how emotional intelligence can be useful for sports coaches.

1)   Self-awareness

The concept of self-awareness alludes to being aware of the situation around you and thinking beyond. Thinking beyond could also be termed ‘thinking outside the box.’ Coaches who wish to enhance their performance levels must be self-aware. Self-awareness alludes to emotion of oneself. A good coach will be in control of their emotions and demonstrate a great deal of awareness of their performers. Developing self-awareness can occur for coaches through a range of possibilities. For example, during selection coaches should be aware of the emotions that are portrayed by performers. Performers who are selected will portray different emotions against those that are not selected. Therefore, the coach must be self-aware of the fluctuating emotions performers portray during this time and be ready to address and issues.

TIPS:

  • Identify – practices that enable you to become self-aware of your emotions (both positive and negative) as you experience these during each coaching session/competitive match.
  • Develop – routines that allow you to enhance your own self-awareness when dealing with performers.
  • Enhance – awareness through utilising useful strategies that identify your own needs.

2)   Self-regulation

The ability to self-regulate is useful for successful coaches. Self-regulation is the ability to maintain control during pressurised situations. These situations normally arise during competitive match situations, but can also occur at training sessions. Effective self-regulation promotes balance between body and mind. One useful strategy to help develop effective self-regulation is through the practice of reflection. There are many occasions that require a coach to regulate their emotions. Examples include, selecting teams and tactics, the use of training drills, the team talk, deciding of substitutions and the end outcome. Therefore, enhancing self-regulation techniques allows coaches to evolve within their practices. 

Tips:

  • Identify – positive and negative emotions during your coaching sessions. Compare and contrast the two emotions and list how you felt. Each time you feel negative, attempt to remember the positive times as this will help re-energise your thinking and mind-set.
  • Develop – strategies that provide opportunities to regulate your emotions through self-reflection. Find a quiet corner and examine yourself (e.g. what could I have done better? How will I develop strategy differently next time? Did I deal with performers and provide sufficient answers? Tactically, did I use the best formation?
  • Enhance – ability to increase self-regulatory practices when you notice your emotions as you experience them or understand your physical feelings as you feel the emotion coming on.

3)   Motivation

Motivation is considered to be a major characteristic of a good coach. Motivation is an inner desire to achieve objectives that are set out, for example when carrying out coaching sessions. Maintaining motivation as a coach and of your performers is instrumental. Therefore, introduce action plans for all your performers. These actions should be set out as specific short-term targets throughout the season.

Tips:

  • Identify – targets early in pre-season and generate these targets into short-term specific outcomes. Utilise actions for each performer to enable their own motivation levels to be maintained and enhanced.  
  • Develop – strategies that provide opportunities for performers to modify their targets.
  • Enhance – opportunities that increase motivation levels when self-confidence is low.

4)   Empathy

A coach high in emotional intelligence will understand their own performers and his/her own self. Building empathy is crucial as understanding needs of performers and making each individual feel part of the set-up is important. Team cohesion is most effective when performers all agree on the aims and objectives set out by the coach.

Tips:

  • Identify – each performer and understand what makes them the way they are through appraisal and identifying individual needs.   
  • Develop –discussions with performers on a regular basis.
  • Enhance – strategies that will increase empathy. For example, introduce different scenario’s to players so they can problem solve these in smaller groups.

5)   Social Skills

Social skills are unique to a coaches’ repertoire. Introduce social skills during group bonding exercises. A coach can support their team and foster effective group dynamics through social skills.

Tips:

  • Identify – opportunities to increase harmony amongst performers during pre-season.
  • Develop – situations that help enhance group dynamics. Introduce activities that promote social cohesion between performers. A cohesive unit is more likely to develop as a team.
  • Enhance – social skills during training and give responsibilities to different performers.

Taken together, emotional intelligence is a useful concept. The benefits of emotional intelligence are evidenced in other domains and hold exceptional opportunities for coaches to utilise within their own practices. Each characteristic of emotional intelligence is flexible and therefore can be used interchangeably.