A football coach’s overconfidence has a positive impact on the team’s result

Experts of the Higher School of Economics (HSE) have determined that the overconfidence of head football coaches is positively connected with the results of the team. Researchers analysed the behaviour of coaches in the Russian Football Premier League (RFPL). The results of the study have been published in the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching: https://doi.org/10.1177/1747954118757438.

Overconfidence and its influence on decision-making have been widely studied in the fields of economics and corporate finance. Studies show that a overconfident person tends to underestimate risks, which can lead to risky financial decisions regarding, for example, capital structure choice, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate investments. Sports competitions are also strongly associated with risk and uncertainty. However, the influence of a coach’s overconfidence and behaviour is poorly understood, and so researchers at HSE decided to investigate its impact on football club results.

The study involved the head coaches of all Russian football clubs playing in the Premier League between 2010 and 2014. Every season, 16 teams participate in the Premier League. Taking into account cases where coaches changed, 63 participated.

‘As indicators of the effectiveness of teams, we used the average number of points scored per game over the season, the average number of goals scored, and the average number of goals allowed. The coaches’ overconfidence was assessed using a press-based metric based on the opinion of the media about the behavior of the coach. This measurement was originally proposed in corporate finance studies’, explains Marina Zavertiaeva, Research Fellow at the International Laboratory of Intangible-driven Economy at HSE in Perm.

Researchers studied cases where names of coaches were mentioned together with the names of their clubs, as well as with keywords expressing confidence or uncertainty. For example, the words ‘confident’, ‘optimistic’, ‘overconfident’, ‘proud’, ‘decisive’, and ‘ambitious’ signaled that journalists consider the coach to be confident. The words ‘pessimistic’, ‘careful’, ‘modest’, and ‘uncertain’ indicated that the press consider the coach to be cautious. Based on the collected quotes, the integral index of the extreme confidence of the coach was then calculated.

The highest level of overconfidence in the period analysed was exhibited by Leonid Slutsky, who, at the time the research was carried out, was coach of CSKA. His team, in addition to the Zenit football club, scored highest in terms of average points won per game more than two.

Based on the statistical testing of various indicators and factors of the effectiveness of clubs, HSE experts concluded that the extreme overconfidence of the coach has a positive influence on the result of the team. What’s more, no connection was found between the coach’s overconfidence and the tendency of the coach to choose a risky strategy, which would mean an increase in the number of goals scored or missed. Thus, researchers conclude that the coach’s overconfidence can be associated with a higher level of charisma of the coach that positively affects the motivation of the players.

Researchers explain that in the field of corporate finance overconfidence is most often considered as a negative characteristic of company managers. In football, however, it can have a positive influence on the effectiveness of the team. The scientists plan to investigate in more detail the reasons for the existence of a positive relationship between the effectiveness of the team and overconfidence of the coach.

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