Help Kids Develop Emotional Intelligence through Sports – Here’s How
Emotional intelligence is defined by psychologists as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. Psychologists identify three inter-related dimensions when discussing emotional intelligence:
- Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
- The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking, problems solving, and decision-making;
- The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down other people.
Kids who develop their emotional intelligence gain distinct advantages over their peers when it comes to leadership, team-building and the ability to work successfully in groups, handling adversity, and maximizing their human abilities. Great skills indeed, but adults must do their part by actively helping kids identify how they are improving their emotional intelligence in order for noticeable advancements along this construct to occur.
Develop emotional intelligence through sports
According to sport psychologists one place where kids can develop, and even master emotional intelligence is through sport participation. Just think, about every time a kid goes out to compete he experiences countless life skills, including working with his teammates, obeying his coach, respecting officials and the opponent, and managing his emotions so that he wins and loses with sportsmanship. And, all of that usually occurs in just under an hour any day a kid takes to the field!
Of course, many of these life lessons and emotional intelligence development opportunities are squandered away when adults (parents and coaches) do not capitalize on them and use them as “teachable moments.” What this means is that kids need to be shown how skills like controlling emotions, respecting opponents, and working with teammates they don’t always like are some of the biggest and best life skills that can be used far beyond the playing field.
Emotional intelligence helps with confidence
One of the biggest advantages a young athlete can gain by developing emotional intelligence is a greater sense of self-confidence. Specifically, when kids feel confident and have a high degree of self-efficacy, they almost always perform at their highest levels. When kids realize that they are learning countless life skills while playing sports, they feel better about themselves and believe they have the skills needed to succeed in life — talk about getting the most out of playing sports!
Tips to help develop emotional intelligence
- Recap games with your kids, and talk about the skills that were used that helped on the field.
- Talk specifically about times when you saw the child almost lose his or her cool. What did he or she do to prevent the breakdown?
- If there were times in the game where your child had to think through various strategies in order to succeed, talk about this process and look for ways to parlay it to other life endeavors and challenges.
- If there were instances where the child had to lead the team, or be a good follower to the coach and/or other team leaders, talk about the process and how it helped with team chemistry and success.
- Talk about all the ways sport skills can be successfully applied to life (including with help in the classroom).