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The importance of 'Emotional Intelligence' when building 'Mental Toughness’ in athletes


Continuing with this month’s theme of Mental Toughness, I have read "The Value of Emotional Intelligence for High Performance Coaching” by Chan & Mallett 2011 (Link above). The article is only 10 pages long and is an easy read compared to some academic articles.


As the title of the article suggests, the target was initially for high performance coaches. However I believe this must be applied, at least in some way, across all levels of the performance pyramid. Children are typically more malleable as learners than senior players. Surely meaning children’s learning has to be a priority for everyone in sport, particularly performance coaches. After all it is widely accepted that sustainable improvement at the elite level only comes from a larger selection pool, starting at grass roots.


One modern coaching theory called CLA (Constraints-Led Approach) suggests coaches are 'environment architects’. I choose to interpret this as a wholistic environment, meaning the coach must at least engage with all aspects of the environment that could affect the players. Practically implementing a method of building mental toughness which also engages with emotional intelligence is no easy task. One option is to utilise CLA theory and include affordances designed to gently push players beyond their perceived comfort zone. Deliberately causing the players to feel uncomfortable in this way will illicit an emotional response. Through this response it is then possible to begin an open dialogue with players and staff about emotional awareness (And in time progressing to emotional intelligence). I have found this dialogue to take its own shape within the team you are working with and then drastically improve the group’s cohesion.


The article offers a solid foundation of EI and through linking with mental toughness becomes more easily implemented for coaches at every level of the performance pyramid.



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