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.’”