Everyone experiences the constant weight on their shoulders known as stress. Everyone experiences the fear and worry in the back of their minds known as anxiety. However, according to recent studies, only 18.1% of the US suffers from diagnosed anxiety. A major reason that just 40 million US adults of the near 260 million US adults (~15%), are suffering from a diagnosed form of anxiety can be a burden to an individual’s emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) is not only the understanding of one’s own emotions, but the ability to manage, control, and use these emotions for one’s own good; Alongside the understanding of others emotions. Whether the use of EI leads to reduced stress, better relationships with others, or even, in our case, an advantage on the athletic side of the world, EI is a determining catalyst in performance.
Through an analysis by The Relationship Between Anxiety and Performance: A Cognitive-Behavioral Perspective, we can differentiate athletes by their EI via assessment of individual traits. Athletes who have a high level of emotional intelligence score high in a variety of characteristics. These characteristics involve concentrated levels of self confidence, empathy, sympathy, and more control over their stress and anxiety. In the latter half, those with low level EI score high on anger, frustration, aggression, and are typically prone to bursting outwards due to changes in their emotions. Emotions dictate every occurrence in our lives, though it may not always be apparent. In fact, emotions precede thought. Emotions affect the way we make decisions and have a magnitude of importance on our cognitive abilities. Emotional intelligence assists us every single day through situational-recognition and thoughtful responses. According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, the ability to manage our emotions – whether at a high level or not – affects our capabilities under pressure. Our ability to manage our emotions are tested most during the times of giving and receiving feedback, navigating change in our lives, and working through setbacks and failures. Times that athletes interact with in every match/game.
To put the importance of emotional intelligence into athletic perspective. Athletes with a high level of EI can outperform the better physical athlete with a lower level of EI. The highest level of EI athletes can command their emotions to lead to a better performance on the field through their ability to focus their emotions, or if needed to disregard them. In sports that are relatively constant such as soccer, football, hockey, basketball, and wrestling, situations that demand constant response and split-second decision making are nonstop. High level EI athletes are able to keep up with the constant barrage of decisions that must be made without letting outside factors effect their decision. These high level EI athletes also acknowledge how others on the field/court/pitch are feeling to a much higher degree than lower level EI athletes. Deciphering their feelings lead to better decisions with the knowledge of other’s motives, opposition likewise teammates. High level EI athletes are certainly more adept at playing in what are known as “clutch situations,” the most important of all circumstances. When an athlete must perform, those who do not let the moment overwhelm them and step up to the plate to smash the home run are those of high EI. Their ability to savor their emotions and utilize them to enhance their performances takes the psychological aspect to sports to the next level. Those athletes, those are the ones who put their emotional intelligence right on center stage.
Anxiety and stress are major factors in athletics. Competitive anxiety starts to kick in when an athlete’s expectations of themselves outweigh their own perceived ability. Athletes who lack a high level of self-confidence is far more likely to experience competitive anxiety than those with assuring self-confidence. Competitive anxiety is higher for individual sport athletes than team athletes. Individual sport athletes do not have the ability to rely on others for assistance in their job, as well as knowing that only one person can be to blame for a bad performance. Resulting in a more vulnerable emotional state. Nothing besides themselves can get them to their goals. Having no one to rely on leaves no route for anxiety to release without self performance or high level EI. Through numerous studies according to Miguel Humara, there is proof that cognitive anxiety holds a strong influence on one’s performance. There seems to be a different understanding of anxiety in athletes, some believe it to be debilitative while others see it as facilitative. Those who choose the latter see less anxiety in their sports compared to the other. To no surprise, the athletes who score higher on self-confidence tests are more likely to see anxiety as facilitative during activity.
In short, emotion is the primary catalyst in performance during sport activity. With the introduction to competition in sport, stress and anxiety are bound to come to the surface. In Personal and Individual Differences, it is believed that emotional intelligence (EI) plays a role in one’s ability to not only utilize their own emotions to be more efficient athletically, but also communicate with the ones surrounding them by understanding their emotions. Conversely, understanding the other team’s emotions will improve one’s ability to make decisions on the field. Athletes must be able to cope with the stress and anxiety that accompanies sport. EI at a high level makes it easier for athletes to not only cope properly with the stress, but utilize the stress to perform at a higher level. EI seems to be strongly correlated to self-control, a trait that makes it easier for one to withstand pressure, regulate stress, and control their emotions. The psychological aspect of sport controls much more of the result than most spectators give it credit for.
Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.).
Goleman, Daniel What is emotional intelligence? IHHP.
Humara, Miguel The Relationship Between Anxiety and Performance: A Cognitive-Behavioral Perspective Athletic Insight.
Laborde, S., Brüll, A., Weber, J., & Anders, L. S. (2011, March 29). Trait Emotional Intelligence in sports: A protective role against stress through heart rate variability? Personality and Individual Differences.