Coaching Advice: Improve Performance With Emotional Intelligence

Coaching Advice: Improve Performance With Emotional Intelligence
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Coaches often tell their players, “Attitude is everything,” but are they taking their own advice? This blog is to provide coaches and parents with knowledge to coach in a way that will drive success and happiness in their players. We believe attitude is tied to the emotions, or Emotional Intelligence of an athlete, coach, and even parents.

Coaching the team

Emotional Intelligence is being intelligent about your emotions. If you manage your own emotions, and assess the people around you, then you likely have high emotional intelligence.

Daniel Goleman popularized EI by claiming it was the best predictor of success in life since it accounts for 85- 90% of outstanding performance compared to Intelligence Quotient which accounts for 10 – 30 %. There is attraction to the idea that EI explains why some people do well in life while having average intelligence while others struggle despite possessing a high IQ (Goldenberg, Matheson, Mantler, 2006).

Put plainly, As a leader your players rely on you. You might not know it but the attitude you have as a coach or parent impacts your child on a deeper level. They look to you for confirmation of their success, and for emotional stability. Are you an emotionally stable coach? Or do you let your emotions drive your actions? Coaches who manage their emotions and are able to analyse their players emotions actually coach with more success. This isn’t a phenomenon, it’s actually a tested fact that has science to back it!

Research has shown psychological skills facilitate athletic performance. Relaxation training, positive thought control, self-regulation, imagery,  concentration, energy control, self monitoring, and goal setting are all traits that have been correlated with athletic performance (Zizzi, Deaner, Hirschhorn, 2003). Many of these traits reflect emotional intelligence. 

The Scientific Impact of Coaching With Emotional Intelligence:

Why does how you act as a leader have such a big impact on the people around you? Because your players brains are actually hard-wired to respond to your emotions.

“Scientists describe the Open Loop as interpersonal limbic regulation. Whereby one person transmits signals that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function, sleep rhythms, and even immune system function inside the body of another.” Source: Primal  Leadership

This means, as a coach or parent, your athlete’s feel your emotional attitude, and mimic it.

A study done by Zizzi, Deaner, and Hirschhorn, (2003) 61 NCAA Division I baseball players ages 18 – 23 participated, to examine the relationship between emotional intelligence and performance. Researchers divided subjects into hitters and pitchers since each taps into different individual physical and psychological strengths. The study used a trait model-based self-report measure and found that all players had emotional intelligence above the overall norms. EI was significantly correlated to the performance of pitchers, specifically strikeouts.

Coaching for top performance

How Competent Are You At Managing Your Emotions?

There are four dimensions of Emotional Intelligence: 

  • Self Awareness
  • Self Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

Managing your own emotions is the first step to leading a successful team. “Can you recognize the impact of your emotions, and use your gut sense to guide your emotions?” If you are happy, they will be happy, and when they are happy they perform better. I know many coaches are rolling their eyes, and probably saying ” This isn’t little league, it’s not all fun and games.” Believe me I know this isn’t little league, and I know to compete at a high level you have to be tough, but managing your own emotions has nothing to do with being tough and everything to do with setting the tone for success in your team.

 “Learn to inspire your athletes to perform at their best. (Primal Leadership)”

Emotional Intelligence has been used by leaders, and business professionals around the globe. We are talking about fortune 500 companies, not a bunch of mom and pop’s. These leaders use emotional intelligence to drive optimal performance in their companies, and make a profit. I know we are in the field of sports, but the same tactics and theories still apply. As a leader you need to keep your attitude and emotions in check. If you fly off the handle your team will fall apart. If you are calm, and coach with a purpose your players will do the same.

A good coach is able to assess not only the skills of his players but also the emotions of his players. Get to know your athletes, find out what makes them tick, are they emotionally agitated, are they excited, are they happy? You should be asking yourself questions like these.  It is important to remember that every player is different, and at a young age they are being bombarded with the emotions and expectations of parents, players, and you. That’s a lot to handle! That is why you and your coaching staff have to act as an emotional anchor for your team. You really are the captain of the ship, and if your emotions start taking on water, you will sink the ship.

“If people are pushed toward the range of enthusiasm, performance can soar, if people are driven toward rancor and anxiety they will be thrown off strife. (Pg. 5, Primal Leadership)”

Results of Coaching With Emotional Intelligence

Coaching with emotions in mind not only drives better performance, it also encourages your athletes to rise to another level. Not just in sports, but in life. When you coach with emotional intelligence you are creating a generation of leaders. Explain emotional intelligence to your players in a team meeting. You don’t have to go into the technical and scientific detail, just explain to them that being aware of your emotions is extremely important for them to be successful.

Player and Parent Emotional Intelligence Exercise: Hold a team meeting with players and parents, give them each a piece of paper and ask them to write down in one word what emotion they are feeling. Once everyone has completed the exercise ask them to stand and read their’s out loud. For parents and players that lack emotional awareness this exercise will be very tough. This same exercise was asked of business SEO’s and it was found that many CEO’s were unable to name the feelings they had. This is an example of low emotional intelligence.

Characteristics of a Player that Exercises Emotional Intelligence:

  • Handle Impulses Well
  • Handle Rocky Emotions Better
  • Have a higher Level of Tolerance and Patience
  • Are Caring
  • Hold Themselves Accountable
  • Value Personal Responsibility

Understanding the powerful role your emotions can have on your players and their families is what will set you apart from other coaches, and other teams. I highly recommend you research and gain a deeper understanding of emotional intelligence. One you understand the benefits, and results you will be able to use your knowledge to drive success in the people around you. How powerful is that? To know you could actually make one of your players perform better, just by being emotionally aware, and coaching in a positive mood is incredible. Most coaches never scratch the surface of sports psychology, and are missing out on one of the most powerful coaching tools there are. I urge you to take responsibility for your coaching, and your emotions and start your research on emotional intelligence.



Please note that a number of quotes, and overall theory of Emotional Intelligence comes from the National Best Seller “Primal Leadership” from Daniel Goleman.

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A little more about Natasha Hawkins...

Experience: Division 1 Fastpitch Softball player at San Jose State. Degree: B.S in Marketing and Advertising Certifications: Certified Level 1 CrossFit Trainer Interests: She loves the way the brain works and how personalities and attitude can create a warrior of an athlete that will always persevere and make success for themselves. While she is not a certified nutritionist she studies and practices the Paleo diet and Zone eating. Quirk: I am an avid archer and hunter. Yup, it's true. I have shot archery since I could walk, and hunted with my Dad since I was born. I also have a sister (Cheridan Hawkins) who is a stud pitcher for the Oregon Ducks Softball Team and is on the Junior Olympic Team. My youngest sister Charli Hawkins trains with me at CrossFit and is also a catcher on the 12U California Grapettes. Follow Natasha on Twitter: @NatashaBHawkins