Study Finds That Angry, Negative Halftime Speeches Help Athletes Perform Better Than Inspirational Ones

The coach’s halftime speech is long known to be a motivational tool in the sports world. Many sports movies, such as Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, or Friday Night Lights include a pivotal scene in which the coach makes an impassioned speech to his team, igniting a furious comeback. But what makes an effective halftime speech in real life? A new study finds that anger is actually more effective during halftime speeches than inspiration.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business analyzed hundreds of halftime speeches and final scores from high school and college basketball games, and found that players seem to perform better after a harsh, more negative halftime speech from their coach. In fact, researchers discovered a significant relationship between the level of negativity a coach projects during a halftime speech and second-half scoring outcomes. The more negativity, the more the team outscored their opponents, that is at least up to a certain threshold point.

“That was even true if the team was already ahead at halftime,” lead researcher and Haas professor emeritus Barry Staw comments in a media release. “Rather than saying, ‘You’re doing great, keep it up,’ it’s better to say, ‘I don’t care if you’re up by 10 points, you can play better than this.’”

The research team started gathering information by contacting over 50 high school and college basketball coaches in Northern California and asking if they would record their halftime locker room speeches for the purpose of the study. Many coaches, however, didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet for researchers.

“Coaches regard the locker room as their inner sanctum—so it was kind of an achievement just to get the tapes,” Staw explains.

One coach even bowed out of the study halfway through because he believed the researchers’ recordings were bad luck. “The coach complained that every time we taped the game, they lost,” Staw says.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Study Finds, Ben Renner