Emotional Management in Athletes

The development of emotional management in the sports context has a special relevance today. In fact, it's as important as the training of physical, technical, and tactical factors.
Emotional Management in Athletes

Last update: 17 May, 2022

Nowadays, it’s accepted that emotions influence different areas of our lives. In the same way, they play an important role in the lives of athletes and, directly or indirectly, influence their actions (Hanin, 2000). In other words, emotional management in athletes is important.

For this reason, the development of emotional factors in the sports context takes on special relevance. In fact, it’s as important as the training of physical, technical, and tactical factors. Indeed, emotional factors are closely related to sports performance.

Emotional intelligence is directly and positively related to age, with contact athletes being the ones who best manage their emotions (Sánchez, Ortega, and Chacón, 2018). However, it should be noted that emotional intelligence isn’t the opposite of the traditional concept of intelligence, represented in many cases with the intelligence quotient, but is its complement.

Emotional management in athletes is extremely important today.

Although it’s been confirmed that emotions are a determining factor in sports performance, this isn’t one of the pillars of the many psychological interventions carried out with athletes. Its absence could occur for different reasons. For instance, lack of knowledge of the application of intervention programs on emotional intelligence, misconceptions about the consideration of this factor -such as thinking that it’s an innate capacity that can’t be trained- or the lack of training time, among others. (Weinberg and Gould, 2010).

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others – it only changes yours.”

-Shannon L. Alder-

Hands of a sportsman at the starting line

Neymar, the player who still hasn’t learned how to deal with frustration

The Brazilian Sports Federation suggested that a lack of psychologists for their sportsmen in the recent past has been a possible setback for them on the world stage. In fact, Brazil was one of the first teams to bring psychologists with them to World Cup matches. However, surprisingly, in the last World Cup, they were one of the few teams that didn’t resort to the use of mental health professionals. Nevertheless, many have pointed out that their star, Neymar, would probably have greatly benefited from the presence of a competent professional.

As a matter of fact, Neymar himself has acknowledged, in a public statement, that he hasn’t yet learned to be disappointed and that, when he behaves like an immature athlete, it’s not because he’s spoilt, but it’s because he hasn’t yet learned how to deal with frustration.

Neymar’s problems could’ve been worked on by a professional. Nevertheless, those responsible for configuring the selection of the team didn’t appear to notice how important a psychologist could’ve been. Indeed, a psychologist could’ve established guidelines and carried out interventions to channel emotions, both at the group level and at the individual level.

“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head – it is the unique intersection of both.”

-David Caruso-

Iniesta: timely psychological help

Andrés Iniesta himself acknowledged that during 2009-2010 he suffered from depression, just after achieving tremendous success as a player. He began to feel bad and felt as if he was dragging a heavy weight around that he couldn’t get rid of. However, he didn’t understand why he was feeling this way. He underwent tests but no disorder was found. Nonetheless, he certainly wasn’t feeling well and soon found himself in a spiral of depression. He eventually recognized that he needed professional help. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have escaped from the situation.

In his words, regarding the figure of the psychologist, he stated “When you need help, you have to look for it: at times it’s necessary. People are specialists; that’s what they’re there for”.

Emotional management in athletes is a key aspect in their success and in feeling good about themselves.

Iniesta

Depression is on the increase

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that in 2018 there were more than 300 million people in the world suffering from depression and more than 260 million with anxiety disorders. 

In the last decade, science has discovered the role that emotions play in our lives. In fact, researchers have found that how good or bad we are at managing our emotions has a significant impact on the futures we build, even more than our IQ.

This rule can also be applied in the increasingly professionalized world of sport. Without a doubt, it’s important to take into account the role that emotional management, along with physical training, plays in the lives of professional athletes.

“We’re lucky to be footballers; my intention in explaining that bad moment is not to make people say ‘poor thing’, far from it. Just that elements of [a footballer’s] life, the feelings, the difficulties, are like anyone else’s.”

-Andres Iniesta-

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  • Gould, D., & Weinberg, R. (2010). Fundamento de psicología del deporte y del ejercicio físico. España, Editorial Médica Panamericana,.
  • Hanin, YL (2000). Emociones en el deporte. Cinética humana.
  • Meyer, BB, y Fletcher, TB (2007). Inteligencia emocional: una descripción teórica e implicaciones para la investigación y la práctica profesional en psicología del deporte. Revista de psicología deportiva aplicada , 19 (1), 1-15.
  • Sánchez, M. C., Ortega, F. Z., & Cuberos, R. C. (2018). Inteligencia emocional en deportistas en función del sexo, la edad y la modalidad deportiva practicada. Sportis: Revista Técnico-Científica del Deporte Escolar, Educación Física y Psicomotricidad4(2), 288-305.