Emotional intelligence in sport: Why your head should rule your heart

Annette Willemse -- Wed, 05/25/2016 - 10:58

Emotional intelligence in sport: Why your head should rule your heart

While emotional intelligence is still a fairly new notion in sport, it certainly is not an unfamiliar concept: just think about the ability of high-level athletes who are seemingly able to “switch themselves on” to consistently heighten their performances.

According to Dr Chrisna Botha-Ravyse, a senior researcher within the Department of Sport and Recreation on the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal), it is of cardinal importance for professionals within the world of sport – especially athletes, coaches and mentors, to be cognisant of the bearing of emotional intelligence on performance. “Emotional intelligence represents not only an exciting research focus within Sports Psychology, but also a powerful advantage for sport professionals if harnessed correctly,” explains Dr Botha-Ravyse.

The following opinion piece forms part of the build-up to the inaugural African Sport Leadership Programme (ASLP), which is set to take place in South Africa during October 2016. The ASLP represents a tailor-made, needs-based leadership growth series, focused on developing aptitudes of individuals to lead the implementation of sport and physical activity related interventions, as partners of multi-sectoral groups and teams operating on various levels.

The key to emotional intelligence in sports, according to Dr Botha-Ravyse, is the ability to control and manage emotions optimally and by doing so create peak performance on demand. Success in sport is mostly associated with force and aggression, thus emotionally intelligent athletes would be able to transfer themselves into the appropriate emotional state needed to cope with the demands of the competitive situation. These athletes are good at getting themselves “psyched up” and prepared if the situation requires high emotional stimulation. Equally, these athletes are good at relaxing themselves, when the situation requires calmness.

When athletes perform in the so-called ‘zone’ effectively they will be able to regulate their emotions with ease. It is my opinion that the key to mastering the skill to change emotional states and learning how to change emotions in relation to performance of athletes lies within the realm of self-awareness. Athletes need to be able to identify when their emotions are influencing their performance and how their emotions change over time. Emotions such as anxiety, can be both positive and negative. The combination of thoughts and emotions determine whether it becomes motivational of de-motivational and will reflect on an athlete’s performance and team-mates.

What we say to ourselves do matter and too often it is very negative. By paying attention to self-speak, the athlete begins to associate what they say to themselves and their emotional state. Therefore, play with passion and enjoy the game -the one on the field and the one within you.

Dr Chrisna Botha-Ravyse

More about the ASLP

Dr Botha-Ravyse sums up the ASLP by stating: “We aim to vest collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches, and initiatives to empower Africa’s sports scientists, sports physicians, athletes, coaches, technical persons, administrators and governing bodies with a view to produce far better results while building up a vital knowledge base.

If, you have any queries about the ASLP you can contact Dr Botha-Ravyse on 016 910 3522 or by email: Chrisna.botha@nwu.ac.za alternatively you can also like the ASLP Facebook Page or visit the ASLP webpage