It's Not The Coach's Fault

My latest story for Wired Playbook discusses recent research from a group that analyzed 46 seasons of professional German soccer league data to determine that firing a coach mid-season -- a tactic clubhouses use to jump-start a fledgling team -- has absolutely no effect on the squad's performance.

So, to really compare apples to apples and provide a clearer picture of what effect a new coach has on a losing team, Heuer thought it better to identify suitable control groups — teams that had bad luck, but stuck it out with their current coach for the rest of the season — and compare them to teams that handed their coach a pink slip when times got tough.

As they suspected, there was absolutely no difference between the teams that fired or retained their coach, as all teams that experienced an early period of bad luck showed improvement later in the season. But pride is a formidable enemy, and the data consistently showed that in many cases, a team decided to prematurely give their coach the boot after they took a beating on two consecutive games.

Read the full story here.

Photo via Flickr / BrokenRhino

Heuer, A., Müller, C., Rubner, O., Hagemann, N., & Strauss, B. (2011). Usefulness of Dismissing and Changing the Coach in Professional Soccer PLoS ONE, 6 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017664

Brian Mossop is currently the Community Editor at Wired, where he works across the brand, both magazine and website, to build and maintain strong social communities. Brian received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lafayette College, and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University in 2006. His postdoctoral work was in neuroscience at UCSF and Genentech.

Brian has written about science for Wired, Scientific American, Slate, Scientific American MIND, and elsewhere. He primarily cover topics on neuroscience, development, behavior change, and health.

Contact Brian at, on Twitter (@bmossop), or visit his personal website.