By Ken Reed

In research to be published this summer in the International Journal of Sport Communication, negative tactics, including verbally aggressive language, were found to be less effective in motivating athletes than coaches with a more affirming style.

“This study shows that extra amounts of verbal aggression in the coach-athlete relationship is a negative thing — it’s not productive, and many athletes find it to be unacceptable,” says Joseph P. Mazer, an assistant professor of communication studies at Clemson University and the lead author of a report on the research.

The key finding from the study is that verbally aggressive language doesn’t work as a motivator, even in sports environments where athletes have been conditioned to expect it. Players said coaches who used profanity and other berating language went too far.

The new study comes in the aftermath of the firing of Mike Rice, formerly the men’s basketball coach at Rutgers. Rice was fired for his abusive coaching style.

“Coaches, in many ways, are teachers,” says Mazer. “And if we hold teachers to high standards with respect to communication, we need to do it for coaches as well.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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