In the Wake of Yeo’s Firing, How Do Coaching Changes Affect Team Performance?

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Last weekend’s game against the Boston Bruins would prove to be Yeo’s last with the Wild. After yet another loss for the team, Yeo was let go after five years—though he thought his time would continue since General Manager Chuck Fletcher told him that his job was safe just a week earlier. Even after being told that he was fired, he fought for more time to work with the team, not wanting to leave them during the middle of the season. Yeo was quickly replaced by John Torchetti of the Iowa Wild until a more permanent option is found.

The unexpectedness of Yeo’s removal and the certainty he held in his position make the situation tough to handle as a coach. Last Monday the Wild played for the first time under Torchetti—a win—which brings great anticipation for the rest of the season. “They’ll want to be hungry to come out and prove themselves again,” Torchetti said, “But we just want them feeling good about themselves, and then we’ll make our corrections and adjustments, and keep on improving and getting better.” He is not sure what changes need to happen within the Wild yet, but he will make further assessments as the season continues.

Studies show that this change in the coaching staff will affect the team’s performance. McTeer White, and Persad (1995) assert, “In either case the players are relieved when an unpopular* coach is replaced and develop renewed optimism in the short-term.” The players may be relieved by getting a new coach, hoping that this will be the changing factor in their team’s performance. A new coach may improve performance, but it is usually not for long. Lago-Penas (2011) states the following: “The empirical analysis shows that the shock effect of a turnover has a positive impact on team performance over time. Results reveal no impact of coach turnover in the long term. The favorable short-term impact on team performance of a coach turnover is followed by continued gradual worsening in the half of a term.” This short term fix leads to a vicious cycle of coach turnover within the team, which is common in sports across the board and happens at all levels of performance ranging from high school to professional. Whether it is a livelihood or a scholarship that becomes uncertain, every level of play has its own set of problems when hiring a new coach midseason.

However, the dismissal of a coach could lead to a divided team as players split their loyalties between the old coach and the new coach. Simon Almaer, MA MBA, said that when a new coach is hired midseason it is like “hitting a reset button; hierarchies, positions, playtime, and roles are put into question.” This creates an uncertain and unsettling dynamic within the team, which may cause tension. Almaer’s advice for athletes trying to stay consistent through team changes? Focus on accepting the new situation, being responsible for their own game, and minimizing distractions. Building a relationship with the new coach is also helpful, in order to be more comfortable with the situation. Finally, athletes should keep it simple by trying their best and having a good attitude about the new changes within the team.

*We are not implying that Yeo was unpopular; it is just a direct quote about coaching changes in general.

Sources:

Lago-Peñas, C. (2011). Coach Mid-Season Replacement and Team Performance in Professional Soccer. Journal of Human Kinetics, 28, 115–122. http://doi.org/10.2478/v10078-011-0028-7

McTeer, W., White, P. G., & Persad, S. (1995). Manager/coach mid-season replacement and team performance in professional team sport. Journal of Sport Behavior, 18(1), 58. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215868828?accountid=8593

 

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