When managers attack: Coaches who care about pundits' opinions worse at controlling anger

April 1, 2014, University of Leeds

The notoriously short fuses of some sports coaches could be explained by excessive concern with how they will be seen by others, according to new research.

A study by academics at the University of Leeds and Northumbria University found coaches who were more focused on their own high standards and less interested in the opinions of others were significantly better at controlling feelings of anger than those who were very focused on others' opinions of their performance.

Dr Andrew Hill, lecturer in sports and exercise science in the University of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: "Outbursts of anger from coaches are a familiar feature of many sports at many different levels—from Alan Pardew's headbutt to a recent attack by a coach on a linesman in an Under-14 rugby match. This isn't good for anybody. You want a calm and analytic mind on the sidelines, but we found that some features of personality may make this more difficult."

The researchers surveyed 238 coaches across a wide range of sports including football, rugby, hockey, netball, swimming and horse riding.  Most of the coaches were involved in amateur sport and their average age was 24.

The results show that those with "high personal standards perfectionism" – meaning that they set their own high standards and focused less on other people's evaluations – were relatively good at regulating their emotions. They showed more ability to reappraise and see situations in a more constructive manner.

Coaches who placed a higher emphasis on perceived pressures from others were more prone to a fear of making mistakes. They had less control over their emotions and were more at risk of losing control of .

Dr Hill said: "Those who believe others expect them to be perfect appear to have more difficulty controlling their emotions. As a consequence, they will be more prone to ."

Co-author Dr Paul Davis, Senior Lecturer in Sport at Northumbria University, said: "The pursuit of perfect performance drives some coaches, but the dynamic nature of sport sets them up to experience intense emotions when their standards are not met.

"Moreover, emotions are contagious; a coach who is unable to regulate their own anger may actually undermine an athlete's performance. In a , a who has limited capacity to regulate their emotions is putting themselves in a position where they may end up doing the one thing they really want to avoid."

Explore further: Study suggests sports coaches are crucial to anti-doping attitudes amongst athletes

More information: Andrew P. Hill, Paul A. Davis. "Perfectionism and emotion regulation in coaches: A test of the 2 × 2 model of dispositional perfectionism," Motivation and Emotion (2014). DOI: 10.1007/s11031-014-9404-7

Related Stories

Study suggests sports coaches are crucial to anti-doping attitudes amongst athletes

February 28, 2014
A study examining Scottish coaches' perspectives on anti-doping has highlighted the influence a coach can have on an athlete's views. It also calls for sport governing bodies to embed anti-doping policies and procedures to ...

'A-game' strategies for parents, coaches in youth sports

October 2, 2012
Parents typically are the biggest headaches for coaches in youth sports. These well-meaning adults may berate their child's performance, criticize sport-officials' decisions or yell instructions that contradict the coach. ...

Disabled athletes face segregation in coaching researchers say

September 3, 2012
Researchers from our Department of Education say attitudes in coaching towards disabled people need to change in order for more people to engage in sport.

Study examines coaches' gamesmanship

August 30, 2013
A new study by an NDSU faculty member gives important insight into the ethics of high school coaches in North Dakota.

Young soccer players show signs of burnout

January 29, 2013
Young elite players at professional soccer clubs are at risk of burnout before they leave school because of the perfectionist standards they feel coaches, parents and team members demand of them, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.