The Power of Emotional Intelligence on Athletic Success     | Teen Ink

The Power of Emotional Intelligence on Athletic Success    

March 19, 2021
By Kris-Garo10 SILVER, Tirana, Other
Kris-Garo10 SILVER, Tirana, Other
8 articles 2 photos 0 comments

Imagine you are playing in the World Cup final, in front of hundreds of thousands cheering and booing from the stands and millions watching from TV. The match is 1-1 in the 90th+ minute and your team is awarded a penalty. You step up for it. Your whole country is depending on you, and everything could change for you and your country depending on the outcome of this penalty. The hard drum-like beating of your racing heart covers up the loud noise from the crowd. Sweat from the vigorous running throughout the game drips down on the flat, green-striped field. You place the ball on the spot, slowly run towards it, and hit it with all your might...   

Some people have difficulty handling this situation, including myself, as it requires having “ice in your veins.” This comes from a process called emotional intelligence (EI). Even if a professional athlete has loads of talent, spent a substantial amount of hour's training, and possess an incisive, analytical mind with many ideas, he still won’t be able to be successful without EI. Sport is similar to other aspects of life, often associated with angry passion and emotion. To be successful in sport, as in other areas, a person must get into appropriate emotional states for the demands of the situation. All successful athletes have shown that they are similar in one way: they all have a high degree of EI. Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, who is considered the father of EI, has discussed deeply five components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. These components help a person understand their own and other people's emotional states in order to reach certain objectives.    

Daniel Goleman's findings have a correlation with a successful athletes’ career. Through EI, athletes handle intense pressure, allowing them to demonstrate their physical and technical abilities to their highest potential. All of Goleman’s components of EI can be observed easily in professional football players. For example, the well-known player, Lionel Messi has been self-aware during his career trying to improve his penalty skills. This doesn’t mean that he is critical of his abilities; actually, he has been honest and real with himself and his fans. Gary Lineker, the former Leicester City legend never received a yellow or a red card throughout his career. As a result of his sportsmanship and self-regulation, he was honored in 1990 with the FIFA Fair Play Award. He was able to manage well his impulses that affect soccer players during game performance, which reflected in his successful career. While self-awareness and self-regulation are very important, motivation is also a crucial factor according to Goleman’s theory. The whole idea here is to have the desire “to achieve for the sake of achievement,” and not for other external rewards, such as money, a big salary or fame. When you have thus type of high motivation, you remain optimistic even when the score is against you. Luca Modric is a living example of "playing because of the sake of internal achievement and not fame or money." As his teammate Rakitic mentioned “Luka doesn’t want any of that. All we want is to win. Everything else is incidental”. When Zinedin Zidane became a head coach of a big club like Real Madrid for the very first time, he compensated his lack of experience and strategy with his empathy. “I was a player for 18 years, I dealt with lots of coaches, lots of very good player, lots of egos. I know dressing rooms very well and I know exactly what goes through the head of a footballer,” mentioned Zidane to reporters. Lastly, social skills are profoundly important for athletes. It connects to Goleman’s idea that successful people work according to the assumption that nothing important get done alone. “I wouldn’t have achieved this without the team - they’re the ones who create the situations for me,” mentioned Robert Lewandowski while in the ceremony of earning “The Best FIFA Men’s Player” in 2020.  

Legends of the football game, such as Messi, Pele, Ronaldo, and Lewandowski are living examples of football players who understand that self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation and social skill are crucial factors to success. They were clear that nothing gets done alone. Whomever may get the chance to kick that last minute penalty in the World Cup final will have emotional intelligence to lean on whether the ball hits the back of the net or not. As the iconic Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo mentioned, “Football is played with the head. Your feet are just the tools”. 

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