A new study at the University of Portsmouth has revealed that there may be a link between the clothes managers wear and the performances of their teams on the pitch.
The results seemed to suggest that managers who wear suits on matchdays, and tracksuits on the training pitch, gain more respect from their players and subsequently they want to perform better.
This isn’t just a load of old nonsense, by the way! It’s been published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology. I did Psychology at A-Level, but we didn’t do anything this interesting. It was all about Freud and some bloke called Oedipus who wanted to have sex with his mother or something. But this is psychology that actually matters!
Dr. Richard Thelwell, the clever man behind it all, believes ‘a coach in a suit suggests strategic prowress which is obviously ideal for a match. In our study, coaches wearing a suit were preceived as being more strategically competent than those wearing sporting attire.’
The study took 97 men and women and asked them to observe and give reactions to photos of four different coaches; A thin coach dressed in a tracksuit, a fat coach dressed in a tracksuit, a thin coach dressed in a suit and a fat coach dressed in a suit. I’m not sure who they used in their photos but they could have gone with;
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Thin Tracksuit: Tony Pulis, Fat Tracksuit: Steve Bruce, Thin Suit: Arsene Wenger, Fat Suit: Martin Lawrence in Big Momma’s House. (Only joking!) Avram Grant.
The study found that the large coach in the suit, was considered to have the lowest ability to motivate, develop technique and strategy and build character. Which sounds about right for Avram! Reports coming from the West Ham camp suggest that when the team turned it around against West Brom last week, it was more to do with the motivating words of captain Scott Parker rather than Grant. Witness other large, suit-wearing managers like Carlo Ancelotti and Roy Hodgson failing spectacuarly to motivate their players.
The skinny manager in the tracksuit, was seen as being the best for technical and character building, and was equal best for motivating players. Again, Tony Pulis and David Moyes are both managers who regularly wear tracksuits and have built teams that (whilst not being strategically brilliant) have had a resiliant attitude and motivated players. Check out Phil Neville’s reaction to scoring the winning penalty against Chelsea on Staurday. If that wasn’t a well motivated player, I don’t know what is.
Finally, the lean manager wearing a suit was considered by the participants as having the best skills as a strategist. And this skill was the most respected. Think of it, as the cool chess-playing intellectual. Managers like Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger fall into this category, but strangely it doesn’t seem to have applied to Alan Shearer’s time in charge at Newcastle, where he was often seen sporting a snazzy grey number! (I wore one just like it to my University Leaver’s Ball as a tribute. Shame the ball came around one week after we got relegated!)
Clearly, there’s some truth in this study. If you look at the top 5 clubs in the league, all of them are managed by men in suits instead of tracksuits. But the harder-working, less-glamorous yet undeniably successful teams like Everton and Sunderland are led by what are known in the industry as ‘tracksuit gaffers.’ Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule. Iain Dowie anybody??
So what’s the science?? Well, Dr. Thelwell believes that athletes (like everyone else) make snap decisions about people on first sight. So before a manager has even opened his mouth to give the pre-match team talk, his players are judging him. The impression he gives in that moment, dictates the performance of the player on the pitch. For example, the tough little Scot in his Everton tracksuit gives an impression of stern resiliance, whilst fatty in the ill-fitting suit looks like a sweaty used car-salesman instead of a football manager.
I think the evidence speaks for itself, and Dr. Thelwell’s study gives us a terrific insight into the psychology of your average Premiership footballer. Manager’s take note! A sharp suit on matchday will make those players respect you more….but you might want to lose a few pounds first!
What do you think about how your club’s manager dresses? Could he turn up naked for all you care, or is his attire the reason you’re doing so crap in the league? That’s what the comment box is for! Debate is free…hell, it’s your right! So knock yourself out!
Now taking reservations for suit measurements @petermagpie.com on Twitter!