EQ and High “Athletic” Performance

Recently I started working with the head coach of a college basketball team. He is quite well respected and better yet, he is one of the truly good and nice coaches. He has been a coach for over 25 years and has been quite successful. Last year, he had a great team which for all practical purposes, underperformed. The issue was neither the athletic ability of the players nor his coaching. The issue was, according to him, that for some reason they got nervous and could not get over the hurdle of high expectations for both the individual players and the team. Thus, his call to me.

I asked him, “What is the difference between one of your players shooting free throws during practice versus shooting them during the end of a game? The ball size has not changed, the distance to the basket has not changed, the athlete did not become smaller or less skilledWhat was different is the proverbial “pressure.” But what is pressure? Is pressure not a high degree of emotions? If so, then doesn’t it follow that a higher degree of EQ would allow the athlete under pressure to work through the pressure better? Of course!

So my argument is that athletes, who are typically over-coached on physical and technical competencies of the sport they are in, are also grossly under-coached in the area of EQ. This is primarily because the coaches are themselves athletes who learned the “old” way where “emotions” have little place in practice time, game time, and outside-the-game time. But more and more, coaches are realizing that the playing field is leveling – the difference between great athletes and the average ones is getting smaller and smaller. And the difference is to get athletes to perform at their best – especially when stress levels in game-time situation go up. This is EQ.

Now, substitute the term “athlete” above with “corporate leader” – does the same rationale not apply?

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3 responses to “EQ and High “Athletic” Performance

  1. Pingback: HRM Today - Blog Archive » EQ and High “Athletic” Performance

  2. Really interesting post. I hadn’t thought about the ability to handle pressure (as in a competitive situation or sports) as “EQ”.

    I always thought of EQ (per Daniel Goleman’s books) as being more about reading others, recognizing emotions, abilty to control one’s own impulses, adapting behavior as needed, etc.

    I’m curious (not debating) — is this your theory (based on observation) about the connection between EQ and athletic performance, or is it research based? Sounds like you’re making a logical connection based on your observation — and it’s worth exploring.

    I do totally agree with you that more of coaching, in sports and business, must address emotions, directly or indirectly. You can’t ignore them because, whether you call them “EQ” or something else, ability to handle pressure and emotions does impact performance.

    Just look at Tiger Woods. Not just a prodigy in terms of his physical abilty to play golf. A whole lot of it is in his head.

  3. Marshall Boakes

    I am of the same opinion, and love the path you have chosen to take with your education, keep up the good observations !!!

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