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Ditch the hairdryer

“The fear of getting the hairdryer was the reason why we all played so well. He was a manager you wanted to do well for.”

So said David Beckham, recalling Sir Alex Ferguson’s renowned in-your-face half-time rollockings in the Manchester United changing room – sometimes even when the Red Devils were winning the game.

But what worked for Britain’s most successful manager doesn’t work for everyone, according to a new study. Fresh research in the United States concludes that hauling your players over the coals actually plays into the hands of the opposition.

In a study of 130 athletes from Clemson University, those who experienced aggressive, condescending language from their coach were less motivated to play well.

But team bosses who used a calm, supportive and affirming style got better results and gained more respect, reports the International Journal of Sport Communication.

“Reading the riot act at half-time has a negative effect on players,” explains Tom Bates, performance psychologist at Premier League club West Bromwich Albion.

“Elite footballers are reflective at half-time and thinking about what they can do to improve in the second half. The effect of a rollicking is not only counter-productive, it also provokes a hormonal response to aggression that saps the player of energy and upsets their focus.”

So coaches who opt for the firm but fair half-time talk will get better results – and save the club the cost of a few tea cups to boot.

For more psychology tips see:
Dealing with the red mist
How to deal with a mouthy player
How to bounce back from a mistake
Managing the pressures of a penalty
Keeping focus in the last 15 minutes
Dealing with a dressing room feud
How to deal with a wind-up merchant
Get the best out of a big ego