Rude coaches hurt performance, study of women’s basketball finds

basketball player dribbles around a defender

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Coaches who are discourteous to their players can hurt their team’s overall performance, according to a new Texas A&M University study of NCAA Division I women’s basketball.

The multidisciplinary research project was conducted by George Cunningham, professor, Department of Health and Kinesiology, College of Education and Human Development, and Kathi Miner, associate professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Liberal Arts.

“We found that the more incivility from the coach, the poorer the performance of the team,” Cunningham said. “This is because cohesion decreased and psychological safety decreased.”

Cunningham defined incivility as discourteous behavior. For example, a coach ignores a player or creates an exclusive environment that gives favor only to top players.

“It is not necessarily the overt, blatant form of disrespect, but more of a subtle form that adds up over time and creates a death by a thousand cuts phenomenon,” Cunningham said.

The researchers spoke to NCAA Division I women’s basketball players across the nation and gathered performance data from games and final scores.

Miner assessed player performance in relation to coach gender. “We found that regardless of whether the coach was a male or female, female college basketball players responded similarly and negatively to rude, uncivil behavior from their coach,” Miner said.

Cunningham and Miner concluded that for a team to perform at its best, coaches must consider their behavior as part of team outcomes.

“The more civil the interactions, the better the performance,” Cunningham said. “Because, they come together as a team. They feel psychologically safe as a team and then performance improves from there.”

This research is also applicable for other relationships, like supervisor and employee. Civility can go a long way in boosting worker morale and helping all teams perform at a higher rate.

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