Well dressed sports coaches win confidence
Sports scientists at the University of Portsmouth studied the effect a coach’s appearance had on the players’ impressions of their competence. Their work is published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology.
Lead author Dr Richard Thelwell said: “We have found that the clothing that coaches wear can have a direct effect on the players’ perceptions of the coach’s ability. Players look to their coach to provide technical skills, to motivate them and to lead them.
“A coach in a suit suggests strategic prowess – which is obviously ideal for a match. In our study, coaches wearing a suit were perceived as being more strategically competent than those wearing sporting attire. However, when wearing sporting attire, they were perceived to be more technically competent than those in a suit.”
The researchers rated the reactions of 97 men and women who observed static photographs of four different “coaches” – lean physique and dressed in a tracksuit; large physique and dressed in a tracksuit; lean physique and dressed in a suit; and large physique and dressed in a suit, as though they had just viewed the coach for the first time and were about to be coached by them.
The coach who was of large build and wearing smart clothes was uniformly ranked the lowest in terms of their competence to motivate, develop technique, develop game strategy, and build athlete character.
The coach who was lean and wearing a tracksuit was rated best for technical and character-building abilities – skills most required at training and development of players ; and was rated equal best for ‘ability to motivate players’.
The coach who was lean and smartly dressed was rated best as a strategist – the skill most expected and required at matches.
Dr Thelwell said: “First impressions can have a powerful and long-lasting effect, no matter how quickly those judgments were made.
“From the research that has been conducted by individuals within our group, we know that sportsmen and women make snap decisions about their opponents based on first impressions. Such impressions then often influence the expectations of the performance outcome that ultimately results in success or failure.
“In coaching it is vital a strong rapport develops between the coach and the athlete. Sportsmen and women have to be willing to be persuaded to push the boundaries physically and mentally because the coach believes they can push harder or even because the coach just tells them to, but to date, very little research has been done on what happens in those first few moments, and more importantly whether the athlete is prepared to go along with the ideals of the coach.
“While we are becoming more aware to how athletes might judge coaches, we are still unaware of the processes that athletes go through to be able to develop impressions of coaches and this is something that we are now starting to look at.”