Could Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew be too worried about what people think of him?
Pardew’s “anger management” issues have been making headlines this season, culminating in a “head butt” incident at Hull City which landed the club boss with a stadium and touchline ban.
But the joint study by Northumbria and Leeds universities says the short fuses of some sports coaches could be explained by excessive concern with how they will be seen by others.
The study found that 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 fixed on others’ opinions of their performance.
Coaches who placed a higher emphasis on perceived pressures from others were prone to a fear of making mistakes.
They had less control over their emotions and were more at risk of losing control of angry feelings
Dr Paul Davis, senior lecturer in sport at Northumbria University, said: “Sport is emotional. It is life with the volume turned up.
“This arousal could get to a catastrophe point where some could completely lose it and go over a cliff.
“Coaches are all coping with demands but if there is the added demand of being concerned at how others see you it could be the straw which breaks the camel’s back.”
Dr Davis said that different players may approach matches in different ways. Some may prefer to be calm and focused while others are more fired up.
An angry coach could distract the calm-approach player and affect his performance.
Dr Davis said: “Emotions are contagious. A coach who is unable to regulate their own anger may undermine an athlete’s performance.”
The researchers surveyed 238 coaches across a range of sports including football, rugby, hockey, netball, swimming and horse riding.
The results show that those who set their own high standards and focused less on other people’s evaluations were relatively good at regulating emotions.
Dr Andrew Hill, lecturer in sports and exercise science at Leeds said: “Outbursts of anger from coaches are a familiar feature of many sports and many different levels – from Alan Pardew’s head butt 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.
“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 emotional outbursts.”