Preferred Leadership Styles in Sports Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

sports leadership. The writer explores what it takes to be an effective leader in the world of sports. Terms are defined and literature is examined to present the most important characteristics in the role of coach. There were eight sources used to complete this paper.

Sports can be the foundation for building a successful life. Whether the participant plays childhood league sports, school sports, or goes on to become a professional player the skills and traits that are developed during that time help shape the total person. Because of the important impact that sports can have on a person's total development the way a team is handled becomes a key factor in the sports industry. Most people who have had children participate in sports leagues have either experienced or witnessed both good coaches and bad coaches. On the school level teams coaches quickly develop reputations based on how they lead the team and the professional coaches who fail to win find themselves unemployed in short order. It is important to develop and lead a team with proven leadership style and technique. The impact a coach has on the members of the team and the reputation of the sport cannot be underplayed. They are key to the industry and developing a good style of leadership not only affects the team's record but the attitude of the individual team members. Understanding the effectiveness of good leadership should be investigated so a blueprint can be developed for future coaching participants. It is also important to understand it because of the impact a sports experience on the individual's life.


Before one can begin to assess the qualities of a good coach one must first have an understanding of terms that are important to the field and what their definitions are.

Some of the terms that are commonly used in the field of sports are:

Positive reinforcement: Is the use of constructive and positive words and actions to use when coaching the team.

coaching philosophy: Is the underlying philosophy that the coach ascribes to in the way he or she handles the team

Style: The way the coach prepares for games, expects the team to act and deals with obstacles and successes of the team. The way the coach handles the entire job of leading the team.

Goals: The coach's desired achievements for the team. This can include won games, practice statistics, practice achievements, player recruitment and player trading ( a Preseason Team Meeting).


There have been many articles written about leadership styles in sports. Most of them surround the professional teams but there are published discussions about the childhood and school leagues as well. Often times the discussion centers around the self-esteem impact that leadership style in sports can have on the team and on the individual team members.

Leadership styles in coaching children and teen teams are crucial to the development of the team members. The leadership style in sports can be as diverse as any other area of life, however the leadership style when it comes to sports is often handled in a very public manner ( planning a Preseason Team Meeting).

Research has taken one of two directions. It either studies an individual coach or it explores coaching and leadership in sports in general (Jones, 1996)

. Dave Shula, one of the most famous coaches in history has been studied extensively for his leadership style and qualities.

"Shula is not a fiery orator with a need for power. Even without final say on personnel matters, he's content with his working relationship with Bengals president and general manager Mike Brown. And Shula allows great input from assistant coaches.

'Each team's management structure and coaching responsibilities are different," Shula said. "I do it the way I feel best works here. I work in the arrangement I knew I was getting into when I came here (Jones, 1996)."

Shula as the league's youngest head coach uses a positive reinforcement style with his team members. While he can get angry and explode like most coaches in professional sports he is well-known for his desire to lead the team to success using positive attitudes (Jones, 1996).

His style involves challenging each team member to improve on their personal best.

Shula's style also involves trusting to those he delgates too. He is famous for being a coach who will be seen on the sidelines of a big game without a headset on. He does this to show confidence in the other coaches' decisions as well as confidence that the things learned and studies during that week's practice will be utilized effectively by the team members (Jones, 1996).

'You look at every team in the league and it's different," Shula said. "Some guys are their coordinators on offense or defense. Some guys are more administrative types, not calling plays . . . What's important is what works for this group (Jones, 1996)."

Questions have risen about whether the players respect Shula. That's not an issue now.

'Im sure there's some attitudes sprinkled among the team that don't respect him," said Bengals defensive end John Copeland. "But for the most part he's got the respect of the players, especially the players playing key roles on this team (Jones, 1996)."

"Powerful and effective leadership brings its rewards. In business it is what drives a company forward and in sport, it can elevate a team to the top of the table. There are those who believe that the success of the Crusaders Super-12 side has been largely due to the leadership style of coach Robbie Deans, and assistant coach Colin Cooper. They demanded personal accountability from each and every player (Glenn, 2002). "

Demanding personal best seems to be a constant theme among coaching styles in sports when it comes to successful teams.

'But when it comes to any type of leadership, the big question is "what does it take (Glenn, 2002)?"

Literature indicates there are several commonalities to leadership in the field of sports.

They include:

* Humility; so the team does not get overconfident

* Proactivity; Provides leadership that is positive and not reactive

* Vision; To lead the team to the future goal of championship

* Persistence; Leading team members with persistence provides the stick to it attitude that is necessary in sports for success

* Resilience; By showing resilience the coach shows the team members how to come back, learn from past mistakes and do better in the future

* Energy; Leading with energy allows challenges and obstacles to be overcome

* Self-belief;

* Creativity;

* And perhaps most important of all -- there is a willingness to take risks and make mistakes. If a leader demonstrates this then the team will do so too

Leadership styles in sports are often under a spotlight of public interest. Leaders of sports teams have to have strong character and thick skin to succeed according to research results. Coaches are often subject to public critique. It is interesting to note the criticism is often based on whether the team is winning or losing more than the way the coaches treat the team members.

Being power happy as a leader in sports can cause a reduction in team spirit according to the experts therefore it is important for a sports leader to find the middle ground between passivity and controlling (Aldridge, 2002).

If one wants to determine the importance of developing a good leadership style in sports one can look to past studies.

"A coach's leadership style is a very important influence affecting the climate of training, and therefore should be assessed often. However, according to Case (1987), coaching leadership behavior is one of the most frequently discussed and least understood aspects in all of coaching. To help in this dilemma, the Leadership Scale for Sports (LSS), developed by Chelladurai and Saleh (1980), has been used to measure the leadership styles of coaches (Bennett, 2000). The scale measures coaches' perceptions of the extent to which they provide training and instruction, are democratic, are autocratic, provide social support, and provide positive feedback. To that end, Dwyer and Fischer (1988) have called for additional analysis of coaches to provide a more normative database for the LSS. Yet, no studies have been conducted on youth baseball coaches. Because of this void, the purpose of this study was to assess the leadership styles among elite Dixie Youth baseball coaches (Bennett, 2000). Those taking the questionnaire were 52 male volunteer coaches who were participating in the Dixie Youth World Series of 1998(Bennett, 2000). The athletes ranged in age from 9 to 12 yrs. And the average age of the coaches was 42.4 yr (Bennett, 2000). Estimates of internal consistency by subscale were 0.82 for training and instruction, 0.81 for democratic behavior, 0.58 for autocratic behavior, 0.76 for social support, and 0.81 for positive feedback (Bennett, 2000). This finding is similar to a study conducted by Hastie (1993). Analysis of the coaches' responses indicated that the baseball coaches reported high positive feedback…

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