Expert Opinion

Coaches cannot survive on reputation alone

Following the news that Sunderland have sacked their manager Paolo Di Canio, Leeds Metropolitan University sports psychologist Dr Andrew Manley looks at the impact that a coach's reputation can have on the attitudes and behaviour of players.

After hearing about Paolo Di Canio’s recent exit as manager of Sunderland, I was prompted to reflect on the findings of our recent research which demonstrated the impact that coach reputation can have on the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of players and athletes. During a previous conference presentation in April this year, I drew attention to Di Canio’s appointment as Sunderland boss. I used that particular news story as an example of where a coach might emphasise a positive aspect of his reputation (e.g., successful managerial record with a previous club) as a means of helping to forge effective relationships with new players, staff and employers.

Now, it would be very easy to speculate which specific factors may have contributed to Di Canio’s dismissal, especially given references to terms such as “player power” and “an out-dated management style” in the emerging media reports.

However, if there’s one thing which is made clear by this latest episode in the managerial merry-go-round, it’s this: positive reputations, whilst potentially powerful in providing the foundations for successful working relationships, do not alone provide a guarantee for continued success and can quickly collapse should they not be reinforced by other influential aspects of people and the environment.

Dr Andrew Manley

Head of Subject / Carnegie School Of Sport

Andrew is a Principal Lecturer in Sport & Exercise Psychology. He also works as a Practitioner Sport and Exercise Psychologist supporting athletes and coaches from a range of sports and backgrounds.

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