The role of emotional intelligence in the health impairment process of professional athletes
Kritzinger, Johan Daniel Wilhelm
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Organisational psychology and the effects of organisational constructs in the sports environment have been explored and research only since the mid-1990s. It has become evident that the sporting environment has become a very demanding environment for athletes. The task of being an elite professional athlete requires the effective management of stress, tolerance of frustration, ability to regulate mood, and exercise of emotional restraint. The effects of such a demanding environment are that demands will exhaust resources of athletes and lead to distress, which, in turn, will lead to stress-related ill health. Thus, the role of emotional intelligence (EI) in sport has become an important research topic. The study was a quantitative. A cross-sectional survey was used to collect the data and to achieve the research objectives. A combination of convenience and snowball sampling methods were used to involve a sample of South African athletes across different sport disciplines (N = 145). The participants were from different ethnic backgrounds and all were older than 18 years. The online questionnaire was distributed via email and it took on average 26 minutes to complete. The statistical analysis was carried out with Mplus 7.31 program. Confirmatory factor analysis was implemented to establish a measurement model. Furthermore, maximum likelihood estimation methods were used and the following fit indices were considered: Comparative fit index (CFI), Tucker-Lewis index (TLI), root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) and the standardised root mean square residual (SRMR). The general objective of the research was to explore the influences and effects EI might have on burnout and psychological distress of athletes in South Africa. The Sport Psychological Fitness Measurement Instrument was utilised to measure the health impairment processes of athletes, in order to indicate their psychological fitness. The Brief Emotional Intelligence Scale (BEIS-10) was used to measure the EI levels of athletes. The study indicated a good fit for the measurement model. Emotional demands were found to be negatively correlated with EI (medium effect). Emotional demands were positively correlated with burnout (large effect), as was emotional demands and psychological distress (large effect). Relationships were found to exist between emotional demands and burnout, between emotional demands and psychological distress, and between burnout and psychological distress. EI was found to have a moderation effect on the relationship between emotional demands and burnout. Lastly, burnout was found to have a partial mediation effect on the relationship between emotional demands and psychological distress. Recommendations were made for future research and for practice.