Emotional Intelligence (EQ) training has been deployed for many years within the corporate world to improve a range of performance related outcomes and more recently, to enhance employee well-being. But the practical power of the framework has yet to be comprehensively explored and applied to good effect within the world of sport, particularly in relation to athlete development.
"High performance is about managing emotions so that people can perform at their best under pressure."
Sir Dave Brailsford
In order to bring about behavioural change, research in psychology indicates that people first need to gain insight into their emotional behaviour. Once they gain insight and an understanding, they can then implement specific tactics and strategies that systematically changes how they behave.
At RocheMartin, we have developed a unique process for equipping athletes with personal insight and assisting them to make behavioural changes.
First, we will educate coaches, teams and individuals on what EQ is and how it supports high performance, then athletes will be advised to take our sports specific, online psychometric assessment tool - the ESi. This process provides insight into their current level of competency across 10 key emotional skills that are highly predictive of elite sporting performance, as well as a 19-page, individualized coaching report.
Once they have completed the assessment, athletes participate in a 1-2-1 feedback session with a qualified practitioner and are coached through the tactics and strategies that can be implemented to systematically improve their EQ. Practitioners will then help to devise an action plan and provide ongoing coaching support to assist an athlete to achieve their goals.
Building competencies such as self-awareness, self-confidence, resilience and focus enhances athletes’ ability to perform optimally under pressure, develops their leadership presence, and enables them to work more effectively within team environments. But perhaps a less publicised benefit of developing EQ, particularly in sport, is it’s potential to equip people with a skill-set that supports their well-being.
EQ essentially involves two parts: first, becoming aware of how emotions in ourselves and others drive behaviours and second, developing the skills to manage these emotions intelligently, to leverage our personal strengths.
Within pressurised performance environments, emotions run high and those that are equipped to recognize, understand and regulate them, ultimately are best placed to perform optimally when under pressure. Athletes who have well-developed emotional skills are able to maintain confidence, demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity, and sustain laser-like focus during the heat of competition.
Resilience and self-confidence are just two of the emotional skills within our 10-factor, sports specific model of emotional intelligence, but how do they work?
Self-confidence is the emotional component of an athlete’s personality and the most important factor in determining how they think, feel and behave. Emotionally intelligent athletes accept and respect themselves and essentially like the people they are. They are confident in their skills and believe in their ability to perform at high levels.
Self-confidence is built on the twin pillars of self-liking – liking and accepting who you are – and self-competence – a feeling of being on top of a situation and possessing the skills and resources to manage life’s challenges.
Understanding, sustaining and developing self-confidence is often what separates the good from the great athletes, and the strategies above are just a few useful ways to get started. However, to this day, many people within sport still believe that self-confidence can’t be developed and is some sort of innate talent that athlete’s either have or don’t have, but the research shows that this is not the case. With the right commitment, support from their coaches and through deploying the strategies that work for them, athletes can build their confidence over time.
Resilience in sport is defined as the ability to withstand pressure and cope effectively with major setbacks and disappointments. Athletes who are characterised by high levels of resilience have a strong will to succeed and have developed the ability to bounce back from performance setbacks, by focusing on the task ahead, rather than the negative emotions.
Developing psychological resilience is integral to becoming successful in elite sport, as a large part of an athlete’s life revolves around dealing with defeat and disappointment, while constantly striving to get the most out of their ability when under pressure. Athletes who have have developed the capacity to see setbacks as temporary and learn from adversarial experiences, tend to be the ones who bounce back stronger from defeat and ultimately, enjoy sustained success. However, building resilience does not happen overnight, and a key factor in the process is the influence of the coach.
Coaches play a very important role when it comes to developing an athlete’s emotional skills, however this can often be misunderstood, or even overlooked within high performance environments. Typically, sport psychologists have been brought in to help an athlete who might have a mental ‘weakness’ or issue, but on the whole, this model is changing. For example, at RocheMartin we work with Charlton Athletic Women’s football team, and instead of being reactive, the delivery model is proactive and involves educating the coaches on the optimal conditions they can help to create which facilitates the players’ mental and emotional development.
The result of this is a group of coaches who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to create environments of psychological safety, characterised by trust, high levels of support, and challenge. These conditions are critical to facilitate athlete development and are particularly important when it comes to building skills such as self-confidence and resilience.
This article has only brushed the surface of emotional intelligence and how the framework can be applied to develop athletes. But with the exciting development and application of the ESi tool and associated training methods, we are now able to rigorously measure and practically build an athlete’s emotional competencies in order to improve their performance. Not only does this enhance performance under pressure, but it equips them with the skill-set to deal with life’s challenges outside of sport.
This article was written by Joe Davis, Head of Sport and Performance Psychology at Roche Martin leaders in developing emotional intelligence to enhance leadership and sporting performance. Their ECR tool is the global benchmark for defining, measuring and developing EQ and leadership performance, and their EQ Sports Report is the world's first assessment tool to measure the key performance competencies associated with elite sporting performance.
Negotiation is a fact of life in business and will also likely play a key role in your career trajectory. Bargaining wit...Read more
Many years ago, a frustrated headmaster at Chaote Rosemary Hall, a Connecticut prep school, sat to write a report for a ...Read more
Global Sports: the world’s leading specialist careers platform for the international sports industry