Taking Control of Your Competitive Emotions: Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

In sport, some top athletes are heralded for their high level of sport intelligence. For example, Tom Brady is said to have a high “football IQ” and Lebron James is seen as a floor general due to his deep understanding of basketball.

A high sport IQ is a great asset for athletes but emotional intelligence is a better predictor of athletic success. Emotional intelligence refers to an athlete’s ability to recognize, utilize, understand, and manage their emotions during competition.

Successful athletes:

  • Understand how emotions fuel performance.
  • Understand that different emotions are useful in different circumstances
  • Understand which emotions optimize their performance
  • Have the ability to consciously move themselves into an optimal emotional state depending upon the competitive circumstances.

It is emotional intelligence that is the key to overcoming challenges, managing distractions, optimizing performance, accomplishing goals and realizing potential. In fact, when we label athletes as poised, composed, clutch or mentally tough, we are citing their high level of emotional intelligence.

Think of a personal example in your athletic career where your emotions got the best of you…You probably saw your performance unravel before your very eyes. You probably even felt helpless to stop it. Most likely, your emotions were still running wild hours after the competition ended.

Success in sport requires a significant degree of emotional control. Emotionally intelligent athletes can move themselves into the optimal emotional states necessary to meet the demands of the competitive situation. If the situation requires high energy, emotionally intelligent athletes can get themselves psyched up and ready to go. If the situation is pressure-packed, emotionally intelligent athletes can stay calm and focused.

Ultimately, the trick is to know how to move into a different emotional state and what is the most productive emotion at a particular time.

Let’s explore some effective strategies to switch emotional gears.

Effective Tools to Regulate Emotions
The key to emotional intelligence in sports is the ability to control your emotions and create peak performance on demand. You do not have to be a victim of your emotions. You can learn to be the master of your emotions by practicing and utilizing proven techniques.

Self-Talk – Words have a powerful impact on our emotions. Thus, you can change your emotions by steering your inner dialogue in a certain direction.

Imagery Rehearsal – Another way we communicate with ourselves and change emotions is through images. Imagery is a great way to elicit the emotions needed to play at your peak at any given time.

Music – Music has a dramatic impact on mood. Simply singing a song in your head can elicit a certain mood.

Kinesthetic Techniques – Physical relaxation techniques or pump up body movements (jumping up and down, cheering, screaming) can change your physiology and affect your emotions.

Tip for Regulating Emotion

Knowing how to regulate emotion is useless if you don’t know when or what emotion is optimal at a particular time. For that reason, it is critical to develop some degree of self-awareness. Mentally review past performances and find trends when your emotions detracted from your performance. What triggered those emotions? What were you thinking? What was happening at that particular time?

Recognize your personal triggers that precede self-defeated emotions. These triggers will be cues to implement your regulation strategies.

Get smart about your performance, raise your emotional intelligence.