From the maroon-faced park clogger who seems to think Sunday morning is a good time to continue Saturday night’s Wine Lodge brawl to the, ahem, ‘spirited’ displays of pros such as Lee Cattermole, many a footballer is personified by aggression.
Too much aggro, however, cannot be a good thing – and now it’s official. A recent study conducted as part of National Science & Engineering Week 2014 by sport and exercise psychologist Maria Kavussanu of the University of Birmingham suggests that playing the game without getting angry leads to better results.
More after the break
“Coaches often encourage their players to be aggressive so they can gain an advantage, but our research, based on 20 male and female teams, suggests this isn’t the case,” she says.
“Winning teams reported lower levels of antisocial behaviour towards opponents and higher levels of pro-social behaviour towards team-mates. Being supportive to one’s team-mates and minimising antisocial behaviour might lead to better performance.”
But why? “There’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive,” says sports psychologist Bradley Busch of mental skills training company InnerDrive. “If you get too pumped up, you release cortisol, which impairs logic. Reduce cortisol levels and players make clearer decisions.”
Barcelona are a clear example of a successful team who don’t focus on aggression, so the message is clear: sometimes nice guys do come first.