If there were any question as to whether emotional intelligence positively impacts every endeavor, research has recently verified that even athletes benefit from EI. A study of marathon runners showed that, of 237 runners, those with higher emotional intelligence finish half-marathons faster than their low EI competitors, even after controlling for the effects of physical training and the number of half marathons run in the past.
The researchers found that those who can control their emotions tend to have better times. “My co-authors and I are all interested in how emotions influence human behavior,” said Enrico Rubaltelli, one of the authors of the study. ”The ability to overcome fatigue while running is a fundamental question and we were convinced that it depended greatly on people’s ability to manage their emotions.”
This phenomenon has been played out in coaching as well. In 2016, Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Eagles, Philadelphia’s football team, announced that “emotional intelligence” was a trait he was looking for in the next man to fill the Eagles’ head coaching job. People laughed about that phrase, but Doug Pederson fit the bill and went on to coach the Eagles to a 2018 Super Bowl win. Pederson has credited the team’s performance at least in part to his emotional connection to the players:
“I think that having the connection, having been in the locker room, having an understanding of the dynamic of what a team needs, what a team should feel, how we should practice, how we should play, when to take the pads off, when to put the pads back on, I think all of that is part of that emotional intelligence that we all — and I try to strive for and to have with the guys. I think that relationship has gone a long way this season.”
Even though the Eagles have suffered some tough defeats since that Super Bowl win, Pederson is still viewed as “the ultimate players’ coach.” As one commentator said, “he might not always do the right thing…but Pederson always acts with his heart.”
As a followup to the success Pederson as had, the team has made it clear that they are also looking for emotional intelligence in their draft prospects, as well.
The value of looking for players who display emotional intelligence is validated by research on the emotional intelligence of NHL hockey players. A Canadian study correlated the players’ emotional intelligence with the number of points scored and games played. While length of time since the draft correlated positively with performance, so did “intrapersonal competency”–which encompasses self-awareness, emotional understanding and emotional management skills–and emotional mood. A study of retired NFL players also pointed to emotional intelligence as a significant factor in post-play professional and personal success, health and happiness, concluding: “Athletes with greater emotional intelligence are likely to be more successful in life.”
The same factors that figure in successful sports teams–emotional awareness, understanding and management–are the factors that make individuals, teams and organizations successful in business and law.