In sport, it is no longer just about physical or tactical-technical work, but about a context influenced by different variables and important figures such as the development of emotional intelligence: a fourth leg to the table for the improvement of psychosocial development and well-being of athletes.
“In the end, you can practice technique and tactics, have the best coaches, players and the best equipment, but if your players are not mentally and emotionally well, this can lead to someone who is a good player ending up being of little use to the team,” says Amparo Garivelles, a soccer player at Atlético de Aspe in Alicante (Spain).
On January 19, Real Madrid coach, Carlo Ancelotti, had a tense encounter with one of his players during the match against Villarreal at the Estadio de La Cerámica, in which the Madrid team was playing for a place in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey. “To me you say hello, okay?”. These were Ancelotti’s words to Rodrygo Goes who, after being removed from the field, passed by the coach without greeting him, an attitude that Ancelotti soon reproached him for.
According to those close to the coach, Ancelotti has an ace up his sleeve and his way of applying “emotional intelligence” to his players seems to be working. Both Rodrygo and Camavinga have been benched for several games and, beyond the negative effects, both players have shown a more positive attitude and development.
“He doesn’t give them advice; he helps them interpret their role within the club. He knows that soccer is also about other things and that the thread of it all is your ability to connect with people. He has a lot of faith in them,” they explain.
Imagine a player about to take a penalty in a World Cup final. If he gets it right, his team wins; if he misses, his team loses. It is inevitable not to think about what this person is feeling. In moments of tension like these, good management of emotions is fundamental.
For Balma Mateu, rhythmic gymnastics coach at Club Lledó in Castellón (Spain), it is at this moment when emotional intelligence plays a crucial role where its tools allow athletes to “improve and strengthen instead of comparing themselves with others or becoming demotivated” as well as to “establish relationships with teammates and rivals from other teams, to not generate toxic, comparative, hateful relationships, but of companionship”.
In this continuous training, the figure of the coach is important, since “he has to guide the athlete in emotional management but without invading his space because he cannot impose a way of acting or managing things,” says Mateu. From his point of view, “you have to give the athlete his space, let him make mistakes, let him get frustrated, and that’s when you have to help him manage that frustration.
However, not all coaches consider emotional intelligence a fundamental part of sport and decide to focus only on the soccer and tactical aspect. According to Mateu, this may be due to two factors: first, it is a topic more related to sports psychology and, second, not all clubs have sufficient funds to afford to hire psychologists to help athletes manage their emotions. In any case, “in the end, the coach has to know that everything is part of the athlete, a player has to have everything in order to evolve and develop his potential”.