Emotional Intelligence in Sport

This week I read an interesting review of the literature on Emotional Intelligence in sport that has found a shortage of research around Emotional Intelligence and coaching, especially as regards the relationship with athletes.

Academics from Germany, France and Australia conducted a systemic review of published studies about Emotional Intelligence in sport. While information on coaches was limited what was there did show a link between effective coaching and high levels of Emotional Intelligence.  These results included:

  • In a study of 37 youth sport leaders, those recording higher trait Emotional Intelligence were more confident in their leadership capabilities.
  • A study of 99 coaches from various sports found that coaching efficacy was higher in coaches with high levels of trait Emotional Intelligence.

However the academics also mentioned that they were unable to identify any research that looked at the role of Emotional Intelligence in the coach athlete relationship. This is perhaps a surprise given the central role this relationship plays to effective coaching. Examining this area is their recommendation for future research around Emotional Intelligence and coaching.

Can you teach Emotional Intelligence?

If Emotional Intelligence is important for effective coaching can it be taught? The literature review found some evidence with players rather than coaches. Again the research was limited but initial results suggested that Emotional Intelligence might be modifiable through training.

The literature concludes that Emotional Intelligence training holds much promise for improving the experience of athletes, coaches, officials, spectators, and regular exercisers but more work is needed. A recommendation was that training might work best if incorporated with more established psychological training techniques such as coping skills and emotion regulation.

This literature review was originally published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports in 2015 but is available free for the month of December (click here).


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