Education resources › Blog › A sport psychologist’s guide to player celebration

A sport psychologist's guide to player celebration

A sport psychologist’s guide to player celebration

3 min read
  • Sport psychology

There is something unique and special about the feeling one gets from scoring a goal. In the first few seconds after the ball crosses the line, players feel the combination of both elation and relief. But what is the psychology of celebrations? Do players that celebrate improve their subsequent performance?

Footballers are known for their unique celebrations – they range from the funny, the absurd to the downright confusing. You can see some of our favourite celebrations here:

Train your mind as well as your body. Unlock your full potential with sport psychology coaching.

How do celebrations help?

Express yourself

Researchers recently examined over 700 goal celebrations from the very best football players around the world. They found that different celebrations were associated with a team winning or losing.

  • 82% of players who expanded both their arms ended up on the winning team.
  • 79% of players who made fists with both their hands ended up on the winning team.
  • 77% of players who puffed out their chest after scoring ended up on the winning team.
  • The worst celebration involved looking down, with 49% of these players ending up on the losing team.

Strike a pose

Researchers from Harvard University found that when people adopt a powerful pose with their body, even for just a few moments, it can make them feel more confident, perform better under pressure and that they are perceived to be more talented by other people.  These “power poses” typically involve expansion of the chest and taking up as much space as possible, lifting the head up and spreading the feet at least a shoulder width apart.

A 54 study analysis found that power posing can also help people recover from a negative mood, by adopting certain poses they are able to remember more positive things and view themselves in a better light. Furthermore, a study found that this type of celebration can lead to a surge of testosterone and a reduction of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’. However, some studies, such as this study show differing results.

Touching teamwork

You may have noticed the increase in intricate goal celebrations that involve elaborate handshakes, fist bumps and hugs. It turns out, that this sort of celebration boosts team performances over the course of the season, with winning teams making physical contact 50% more than losing teams.

Research has shown that communicating through positive physical contact helps to improve team cooperation, likewise, a study from Yale University found that it also promotes trust between team mates, and both and skills essential skills for a team-based game like football.

All together now

Evidence suggests that a team that celebrates together, wins together which has been explained in a theory called emotional contagion. Emotional contagion states that an individual has the ability to, consciously or unconsciously, impact the people around them through verbal and non-verbal cues. Put simply, this means that we take on the emotions of people around us, and in turn can influence how they feel. When our colleagues are happy, confident and focused, we are more inclined to feel this positivity and to perform better.


  • Be sure to celebrate each and every goal
  • The more expressive the better: celebrations with both arms extended are best
  • Celebrate in style: expansive body language and power posing can boost a player’s psychological state.
  • Celebrate with your team-mates: emotions are contagious, so spread the joy as teams that celebrate together are more likely to win together
  • Stay in contact: team-mates who make physical contact are more likely to be part of a winning team

And of course, no blog about football celebrations would be complete without acknowledging our two favourite World Cup celebrations: Roger Miller’s dancing and Bebeto’s tribute to his baby boy…. 

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

Follow on XConnect on LinkedIn