Sports Coaches and Anger: The Psychology Behind Inability to Control Emotions

First Posted: Apr 03, 2014 03:52 PM EDT

You've probably seen your favorite football coach incessantly screaming on the sidelines for seemingly no apparent reason. His actions are most likely relative to his passion, but new research suggests that underlying psychological issues could play a role as well.

A significant amount of coaches in various sports have shown to be easily irritated, whether it's caused by questions from the media, a controversial call from a referee, or the performance of his own players. Researchers at the University of Leeds and Northumbria University recently conducted a study of 238 amateur sport coaches to find some answers.

The main finding of the study was that the coaches who were less concerned with public opinion - those of the fans and pundits - tended to focus more on their own high standards and were more likely to control their emotions on the field during game time. The researchers found this to be the same across coaches in different sports in the UK: soccer, rugby, hockey, netball, swimming, and horse riding.

The coaches who were less likely to control themselves in the heat of the moment (or any moment for that matter) were found to place a higher emphasis on perceived pressures from outside sources and were more prone to make mistakes as well as experience emotional outbursts, most likely in an angry fashion.

The study, entitled, "Perfectionism and Emotion Regulation in Coaches: A Test of the 2 x 2 Model of Dispositional Perfectionism" was co-authored by Dr. Andrew Hill (the study's leader) of the University of Leeds and Dr. Paul Davis of Northumbria University. It was published in the journal Motivation and Emotion. They found significant differences in the underlying factors based on the coaches' behaviors.

"Moreover, emotions are contagious; a coach who is unable to regulate their own anger may actually undermine an athlete's performance," said Dr. Paul Davis, in this University of Leeds news release. "In a worst case scenario, a coach 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."

A coach's behavior could affect the team as a whole, which is why the authors believe a calm and analytic mind is best for those who are managing a group of people who are supposed to listen.

To read more about the study, you can visit the published version as well as this Science Daily new release.

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