Male Athletes Perception of Coaches Behavior in University Interscholastic Middle School Athletic Programs

Authors: Raymond Tucker

Corresponding Author:
Raymond Tucker, D.S.M, CSCS, FMSL1, USATFL1, USAWLP-1
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology
University of Houston at Victoria
3007 N. Ben Wilson
Victoria, Texas 77901
Phone: (361)-570-4381

Raymond Tucker is an assistant professor of Kinesiology at the University of Houston at Victoria. He is a graduate of the United States Sports Academy with a Doctorate in Sports Management, and he is a certified strength and conditioning specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is also a certified coach by the United States Track and Field Association, United States Weightlifting Federation, and Functional Movement Systems. He is certified by the state board of educator certification in Texas in health grades (EC-12) and secondary physical education (6-12).

Male Athletes Perception of Coaches Behavior in University Interscholastic Middle School Athletic Programs

ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study was to determine male athlete’s perception of the behavior style of leadership used by their coaches in the treatment and daily interactions with their male athletes. The study compares male athletes at three different middle schools to determine if the perceived behavior styles of leadership are similar amongst male coaches at the respective middle schools for this study.

Results of this study detected a statistically significant difference in the behavior styles of leadership perceived by male athletes at the respective middle schools in this study in the following dimensions. 1) democratic and training and instruction, (2) autocratic and training and instruction, (3) social support and training instruction, (4) positive feedback and democratic behavior, (5) positive feedback and autocratic behavior, and (6) positive feedback and social support. This study did not reveal a statistically significant difference between middle schools in the dimensions of (1) positive feedback and training and instruction, (2) autocratic and democratic behavior, (3) social support and democratic behavior, (4) social support and autocratic behavior. Results of this study clearly indicate male coaches at the three respective middle schools in this study place more emphasis on the democratic behavior style of leadership with a mean score of 3.93, and the autocratic behavior style of leadership with a mean score of 3.65, the data shows an emphasis is also placed on the social support behavior style of leadership with a mean score of 3.59 (see Table 1).

This study does not conclude which behavior styles of leadership perceived by male athletes is superior for the overall success of a middle school athletic program. What follows is the basis for this study, procedures used to conduct the research, an analysis of the data, conclusions, application in sport, and finally, recommendations for further research on this topic.

Keywords: coaching, coaching climate, male student athletes, athletic programs

INTRODUCTION
The researcher’s purpose for choosing this topic is over the years there has been a decline in male athletes participating in middle school athletic programs after their 7th grade year. The researcher contributes the decline of male participation in middle athletic programs to the behavior style of leadership used by the coach. Coaches hired at the middle school level are typically unexperienced coaches in search of an opportunity to gain experience. Coaches at the middle school level are under the direct supervision of a middle school coordinator.

The middle school coordinator is the most experienced coach on the staff, and this position comes with a great deal of responsibility, power and authority. This position of authority and power can influence a middle school coordinator or a head coach at any level to adapt a strong autocratic behavior style of leadership. According to (6), coaches are held accountable for the outcome of activities fraught with uncertainties, injuries, the weather, poor officiating, mental lapses by athletes, bad luck and exceptional play by the opponents. Face with these uncertainties coaches strive from as much control as possible. (3), states the reason for coaches to be authoritarian lie, rather in structural conditions. Researchers (10), state coaches use power as a leadership tool, but power is not a form of leadership; it is a form of control. Individuals who are given a position of authority and have not developed the proper leadership skills will revert to power and fear as way of intimidating people into doing what they want them to do. Research studies conducted by (11), state that today’s coaches are known for implementing very strict rules and polices. Furthermore, a strong form of discipline is used to manage their athletes, but this is not leadership; this is control or power over another person to get them to do what one wants them to do. This type of power has led coaches to adopt the “my way or the highway attitude” and become known by their athletes and coaches as dictators and not leaders. (9), state the disciplinarian style of leadership was adopted by older coaches in the profession to place fear in their staff and athlete’s to conform to their rules. This behavior style of leadership has been adapted by several coaches who have worked under a strong disciplinarian, authoritarian, my way or the highway way style of head coach who was successful. (1), add the type of leadership behavior displayed by the coach will have a significant impact on both athletes and teams. The danger to adapting to one’s behavior style of leadership is this behavior style of leadership may not be appropriate for the maturity level of your athletes. In addition, this then becomes a revolving cycle of coaches who use the autocratic disciplinarian behavior style of leadership because that is what they are accustomed to. Researchers (7), state that in order for a coach to be successful, he or she must have the ability to change his or her style of leadership to fit the athlete’s level of maturity. The research study conducted by (7), supports future research studies conducted by (5) who state success in sport coaching depends, largely on the leadership style of the coach. It is expected of the coach to try and ensure that there is congruency between the required actual and preferred leadership behavior. (9), state the coach should not always want the athlete to conform to the style of leadership, but should change his or her style of leadership to meet the needs of the athlete. Researchers (14), studied other studies by researchers on the topic of leadership and came to the conclusion that the two most important task of any leader is first, to be sure his or her subordinates are satisfied with the organization, and second, continue to ensure the organization reaches the goal or mark established early on by the members of the organization. Coaches need to recognize the success of their athletic program starts in their middle school athletic program by retaining male athletes who are satisfied with the athletic program. Male athletes who enjoy their middle school athletic experience will be motivated to continue to participate at the high school level. Research studies by (14) support research by researchers (12) who state the key for the visionary style of leadership is for a coach to be able to motivate his or her players by including them in goal setting and the vision of the organization. Once the players have been involved in this process, they will want to sacrifice and work hard to establish these goals. Research studies by (14), and (12) support the democratic behavior style of leadership described by Leadership Scale for Sports (LSS) by (2), which is coaching behavior that allows greater participation by the athlete when it comes to making decisions pertaining to group goals, practice methods, game tactics, and strategies. The researcher will be conducting a study “Male Athletes Perception of Coaches Behavior in Middle School Athletic Programs” this study will examine the perceived behavior styles of leadership used by coaches in male middle school athletic programs.

Research Question
This research study entitled Male Athletes Perception of Coaches Behavior in Middle School Athletic Programs was conducted to answer the following research questions:
1. Was there a difference in the median scores of the five Leadership Scale of Sports dimensions among eighth grade males in middle school athletic programs?

Subjects
Subjects for this study were 170 grade male athletes who participated in middle school sports throughout their 7th and 8th grade year at the same middle school. The researcher’s purpose for not including incoming 7th graders or those new to the athletic program is they could not give a clear and accurate assessment of the perceived behavior styles of leadership that their coach is using. The schools selected for this study were three different middle schools from Central Texas, which include Bastrop, Cedar Creek, and Elgin middle schools.

Methods
Data for this study was collected using the Leadership Scale of Sports (LSS) questionnaire with the permission of Dr. Packianthan Chelladurai Ph.D at Ohio State University. The questionnaire measures an athlete’s perception of their coach’s behavior style of leadership and consists of forty items that all begin with “My Coach.” These forty items represent five dimensions of leadership behavior in sports and operationally defined in Chelladurai & Saleh, (1980). The scoring of the Leadership Scale of Sports questionnaire was based on an ordinal scale, five-category scale that consists of a numerical number: 1. Always; 2. Often (about 75 % of the time); 3. Occasionally (50% of the time); 4. Seldom (about 25% of the time); 5 Never. Each of the forty items on the Leadership Scale of Sports questionnaire represents one of the five latent dimensions of leadership. These five dimensions were (1) autocratic behavior, (2) democratic behavior, (3) positive feedback, (4) social support, and (5) training and instruction. To facilitate clarity of content for each item for the subject, the five listings of leadership were displayed across the page specific to the stem of each item with the number that represents the style of leadership listed under that category the male student athletes who are completing this questionnaire do not know which question represents what dimension of leadership. Middle School Athletic coordinators at each middle school were given verbal directions in person prior to the questionnaires being mailed. The data was analyzed quantitatively using the 15.0 version of Statistical Package for Social Sciences. Several statistical tests were used to analyze the data. The Freidman test is a test used for two-way repeated measures analysis of variance by ranks. This test was used to determine the statistically significant difference based on gender among the three middle schools in at least one of the five dimensions of leadership behavior. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test is a non-parametric statistical hypothesis test used for two related samples or repeated measures on a single sample. In order to determine the location of the difference, a series of Wilcoxon signed-ranks tests using the Bonferroni adjustment to the p-value were administered. Because there are ten comparisons to be measured, 0.05 was divided 10, rendering a new p-value of 0.005 The Kruskal-Wallis test is the non-analog test, an ANOVA; this test was used to compare three or more medians among schools based on gender. For this study the data collected was used by the researcher to compare male student athletes at the three respective middle schools.

RESULTS
The research question of this study asked whether there was a difference in the median scores of the five LSS dimensions among eighth grade males in middle school athletic programs. The results of the Friedman Test show in male student athletes there was a statistically significant difference in at least one of the five LSS dimensions of leadership behavior.

Table 1: Mean Scores Males Behavior Styles of Leadership
Table 1

Test Statistics(a)
Table 1 continued

The results of the Friedman Test show in the male athletes there was a statistically significant difference in at least one of the five LSS dimensions of leadership behavior χ2 (4, N = 170) = 272.05, p < .001. In order to determine the exact difference in the LSS dimensions among males at Bastrop Middle School, Cedar Creek Middle School, and Elgin Middle School, a series of pairwise comparisons were conducted to determine where the exact differences are. To do that we perform a series of Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test using a Bonferroni adjustment to the p-value. Because we made 10 comparisons we need to divide 0.05/10 = 0.005. Our new p-value then is .005. Table 2: Test Results for Comparisons of Behavior Styles of Leadership Test Statistics(c) Table 2
a. Based on negative ranks.
b. Based on positive ranks.
c. Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test

Based on the results of the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test clearly show a statistically significant difference at the 0.005 level between the following dimensions (1) democratic and training and instruction, (2) between autocratic and training and instruction, (3) between social support and training instruction, (4) between positive feedback and democratic behavior, (5) between positive feedback and autocratic behavior, and (6) between positive feedback and social support.

Table 3: Descriptive Means Table for Males among Middle Schools
95% Confidence Interval for
Table 3

CONCLUSIONS
In answering the research question, the researcher will discuss the statistically significant differences among males between the following dimensions: (1) democratic behavior and training and instruction, (2) autocratic behavior and training and instruction, (3) social support and training and instruction, (4) between positive feedback and democratic behavior, (5) between positive feedback and autocratic behavior, and (6) between positive feedback and social support.

The first statistically significant difference between males at the respective middle schools occurred between the dimensions of democratic behavior and training and instruction (see Table 2). Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 3.43 for democratic and a mean score of 2.2 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.72 for democratic and a mean score of 2.0 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 2.95 for democratic and a mean score of 1.6 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership (see Table 3). The data clearly displays coaches at the three respective middle schools for this study place more emphasis in the democratic behavior style of leadership compared to the training and instruction behavior style of leadership.

The second statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of autocratic behavior and training and instruction (see Table 2). Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 3.01 for the dimension of autocratic and a mean score of 2.2 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 3.07 for autocratic and a mean score of 1.6 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.69 for autocratic and a mean score of 2.0 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership (see Table 3). The data reveals coaches at all three middle schools have a higher regard for the autocratic behavior styles of leadership compared to training and instruction.

The third statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of social support and training and instruction (see Table 2). Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 3.2 for social support and a mean score of 2.2 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.66 for the social support, and a mean score of 2.2 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle Schools have a mean score of 2.65 for social support and 1.60 for training and instruction behavior styles of leadership (see Table 3). The data clearly displays coaches at the three respective middle schools for this study place more emphasis in the social support behavior style of leadership compared to the training and instruction behavior style of leadership.

The fourth statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of positive feedback and democratic behavior (see Table 2). Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.26 for positive feedback and a mean score of 3.43 for the democratic behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.01 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.72 for the democratic behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 1.70 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.95 for the democratic behavior styles of leadership (see Table 3). The data clearly displays coaches at the three respective middle schools for this study place more emphasis in the democratic behavior style of leadership compared to the positive feedback behavior style of leadership.

The fifth statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of positive feedback and autocratic behavior (see Table 2). Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.26 for positive feedback and a mean score of 3.01 for autocratic behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.01 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.69 for the autocratic behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 1.70 for positive feedback and a mean score of 3.07 for the autocratic behavior styles of leadership (see Table 3). The data clearly displays coaches at the three respective middle schools for this study place more emphasis in the autocratic behavior style of leadership compared to the positive feedback behavior style of leadership.

The sixth statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of positive feedback and social support (see Table 2). Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.26 for positive feedback and a mean score of 3.21 for the social support behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.01 for positive feedback and mean score of 2.66 for social support. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 1.7 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.65 for the social support behavior styles of leadership (see Table 3). The data clearly displays coaches at the three respective middle schools for this study place more emphasis in the social support behavior style of leadership compared to the training and instruction behavior style of leadership.

The researcher indicates the data collected for this study was based on male athlete’s perception of the behavior styles of leadership used by their coaches at the respective middle schools. Based on the results of the data, we can conclude these are the behavior styles of leadership used by coaches in the individual treatment and daily interactions with their athletes.

The researcher states the interesting point revealed by the data in Table 1 was the high mean score of 3.93 for the democratic behavior style of leadership used by male coaches at the three middle schools in this study. The high mean score amongst coaches at the three middle schools for this study supports research studies conducted by (11), the key to having a successful organization is to have informal and formal personal relationships with one’s employees; in this case it would be athletes. The democratic behavior style of leadership gives athletes the opportunity to establish long term relationships with their coaches, and to express their opinions and ideas in the operation in the athletic program. The high mean scores for the democratic behavior style of leadership also support research studies by (14) and (12), which support the democratic behavior style of leadership described by Leadership Scale for Sports (LSS) by (2).

The researcher agrees with this behavior style of leadership used by coaches, because the goal of a middle school athletic program should be to retain and send as many male athletes as you can to the high school. The researcher states in the state of Texas football is the number one sport. Depending on the district and the geographical area a middle school athletic program could have anywhere from 200 to 250 combined 7th and 8th grade athletes participating in middle school athletics every year. Most middle schools will send around 125 8th grade male athletes to participate in freshman football. The key to retaining athletes at the middle school level is to give them the opportunity to express their ideas or opinion’s and give them some self-worth in the athletic program.

Coaches at the three middle schools also scored very high in the autocratic behavior style of leadership. The autocratic behavior style of leadership is the behavior style of leadership used by most coaches in the profession today because it geared towards independent decision making and stresses personal authority. The autocratic behavior style of leadership is a good leadership style for instilling discipline in young athletes, and the goals of the program, but it can also be misused by coaches in an order to motivate by fear to get athletes to do what you want them to do. This style of leadership is viewed by some as the ‘My way or the highway”. The biggest challenges of coaches at the middle school level is coaching young athletes who do not come from a structured home were discipline is enforced. (9), state that the coach wants the athlete to conform to his or her style of leadership. Oftentimes the athlete will quit or no longer want to give his or her best effort. This behavior displayed by the athlete is used as a retaliation tool against the coach. If the athlete is an exceptional athlete the coach will try to persuade the athlete to continue to participate in athletics, if the athlete continues to participate in athletics they will feel as though they have a sense of power over the other athletes on the team the coaching staff. The researcher would like to make the point an athlete who has grown up playing sports and comes from a disciplined home environment will have no problem following the autocratic behavior style of leadership implemented by the coaching staff. However, it has been the researchers experience that male athletes who do not come from a strict home environment, will not be responsive to this style of leadership and will view the coaching staff as being mean, disrespectful and not treating them fairly.

The data also reveals a high mean score for the social support behavior style of leadership amongst the three middle schools for this study with a 3.59 (see Table 1). The social support behavior style of leadership is geared towards establishing a positive coach athlete relationship. According to (8) positive athlete outcomes such as team cohesion may be better predicted by coach leadership behaviors in conjunction with the athlete’s perception of the coach athlete relationship. This supports (13), coach leadership aimed at facilitating positive outcomes for athletes may best be conceived of as incorporating both coach behavior and coach athlete relationship. The researcher says the reason for the high regard to the social support behavior style of leadership could be related to the geographical and socioeconomic status of the athletes that attend the school. Coaches who are employed in school districts with a low socioeconomic status understand their student athletes will come to school with different problems and they will end up being more of a counselor, and a father figure for most of these athletes. They will take the time to listen to these athlete’s problems and give them advice and direction in life. The will also express the importance of being involved in athletics, and the lifelong lessons one can learn by participating in athletics. The data clearly shows a low mean score positive feedback 1.94 and training and instruction 1.89 (see Table 1). The researcher was amazed by the low score for positive feedback amongst the coaches at the three middle schools for this study. The researcher contributes this to athletes not understanding the difference between constructive feedback and positive feedback, which is common among young athletes at the middle school level. Coaches practice giving constructive feedback and then positive feedback to motivate the athlete to improve on the task.

The research addresses the low mean score for training and instruction due to the high number of male athletes participating in middle school athletics compared to fewer coaches, which makes the task of coaching each athlete incredibly difficult. The talented and mature athletes will develop and participate in practice to further develop their athletic skills. Those athletes who are reserved, or who do not show the interest or the athletic ability at the present moment, would be pushed to the side and overlooked. These student’s athletes will feel like they are being coached or trained to improve their athletic ability.

APPLICATION IN SPORT
The author of this study makes the following recommendations for further research. First, further research is needed on the behavior styles of leadership use by male coaches in middle school athletic programs and the effect these behavior styles of leadership have on male athlete’s development and desire to continue participating in athletics. The second recommendation would be to conduct research on those male athletes who have quit participating in middle school sports to determine why the quit participating in athletics. The third recommendation is for researchers to study the behavior style of leadership used by male coaches at the middle school and then conduct another student when these male athletes participate in high school athletics to determine if there is a difference in the behavior styles of leadership used between coaches at the middle school and high school within the same district. This will give researchers and administrators in indication of the culture established by the coach. The fourth recommendation is to have other researchers conduct the same study in middle school athletic programs in other school districts, and then compare the school districts results to determine if there is a difference between the coach’s behavior style of leadership amongst school districts, and if the behavior style of leadership contributes to the overall success of the athletic program. It is the goal of this study that coaches contemplate the data in this study and use it to improve on the behavior styles of leadership used in their daily interaction and treatment of their athletes. Researchers should pursue additional studies on this topic and coaches should look into this and similar studies to improve their interaction with athletes in middle school athletic programs.

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