PRAISE, damnation and the transfer market ... Micky Adams has tried them all in a bid to improve Sheffield United’s fortunes.
But, as he prepares for tomorrow’s visit to Portsmouth, the South Yorkshire club’s manager has been told the key to success could involve a change of wardrobe. Academics at the city’s university, researching effects upon sporting performance have discovered a direct correlation between a coach’s attire and attitudes towards their competence.
Traditionalists and sartorially aware members of the footballing fraternity will welcome the findings.
“We have found that the clothing that coaches wear can have a direct effect on the players’ perceptions of the coach’s ability,” Dr Richard Thelwell, the project’s lead author, said. “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 research saw 97 men and women asked to assess photographs of four differently dressed coaches. They portrayed individuals of both large and lean physique dressed in a tracksuit and more formal clothes.
The results, published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology, saw the coach of large build wearing smart clothes ranked the lowest in terms of perceived motivational skills, technique development and strategy-making.
The coach who was lean and wearing a tracksuit was rated most effective in terms of technical and character-building ability, which were skills most required at training. They also scored highest in the player development and motivational categories.
The coach who was lean and smartly dressed was rated best as a strategist, the skill most expected and required during matches.
Intriguingly Gary Speed, Adams’ predecessor, swapped sweats for a collar and tie soon after taking charge of the South Yorkshire club. However, it failed to inspire the sequence of improved results United required to claw themselves away from the relegation zone.
Adams is still searching for his first win since replacing caretaker John Carver in December and United travelled south last night 23rd in the DChampionship table.
“First impressions can have a powerful and long-lasting effect, no matter how quickly those judgments were made,” Dr Thelwell said. ”From the research, we know that sportsmen and women make snap decisions about their opponents based on first impressions and 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,” Dr Thelwell added. “But, to date, very little research has been done on what happens in those first few moments, and more importantly, whether the athlete actually is prepared to go along with the ideals of the coach they are working with.”