Coach reputation key to getting best out of athletes
The study, led by Dr Andrew Manley at Leeds Met, is the first of its kind to be conducted in a real-life coaching situation rather than in a lab, examining the behaviour of 35 male football players taking part in coaching sessions delivered by an unknown coach.
One group of athletes was told that the coach was highly experienced, one was told that he was completely inexperienced and a third group was told nothing at all about the coach. The sessions were video-recorded and the footballers' behaviours were analysed by measuring their attention to coach instruction (e.g., where they were looking during the coach's demonstrations) and their persistence and effort during practice (e.g., engagement in game-related behaviours such as making tackles, blocks, runs and shots).
The results revealed that the players in the highly experienced group paid significantly more attention to the coach's instructions and exhibited greater levels of effort and persistence during practices than those in the inexperienced group.
Dr Manley commented: "The results provide further evidence to support the view that athletes use reputation information to form their initial expectancies of coaches, and that this can influence their behaviour in performance environments. Additionally, as athletes seem to pay more attention to positive information than to negative, coaches can actively offset the potentially damaging impacts of negative information by placing emphasis on positive cues, experiences and behaviours.
"Reassuringly, our research shows that coaches of all levels have a great deal of control when attempting to build relationships with their players. For example, inexperienced coaches who are yet to establish a positive and renowned reputation can still create favourable initial impressions by displaying good behaviours such as enthusiasm, involving players in decision-making, and placing value and interest in developing athletes."
The study was carried out in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Chichester and University of Winchester, and involved football players at university and regional level, including some semi-professionals, in the South of England.
The abstract and full article can be found here: