Preferred Behaviors Used by Coaches in Female 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
rtbills2001@gmail.com

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).

Preferred Behaviors Used by Coaches in Female Middle School Athletic Programs

ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study was to determine female athlete’s perception of the behavior styles of leadership used by their coaches in female middle school athletic programs. The average of these perceptions can be viewed as the actual behavior style of leadership coaches used in the treatment of their athletes. The study compared behavior styles of leadership used by coaches in female middle school athletic programs at three different middle schools. This study also compares coaches from the three different middle schools to determine if the behavior styles of leadership used are similar amongst coaches.

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 the Leadership Scale of Sports.

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 (2). These five dimensions were
1. Autocratic Behavior
2. Democratic Behavior
3. Positive Feedback
4. Social Support Behavior
5. Training and Instruction

The athletic coordinators of each school were each given instructions in person prior to the questionnaire being mailed. The questionnaires were sent back in a self- addressed stamped envelope. Athletic coordinators at the respective middle schools received communication in person, phone, and e-mail. The data was analyzed quantitatively by using the 15.0 version of the SPSS statistical software. Due to the ordinal and theoretically categorical nature of the LSS scale, nonparametric statistical methods (i.e., a test of medians rather than means) was used in all data analyses. Specially, the Mann-Whitney U, Kruskal-Wallis, and multi-way contingency table (log-linear) nonparametric ANOVA tests was used. To what degree was there a difference among the distribution of LSS scores on the five dimensions for eighth grade females in middle school sports? To answer this question, the Kruskal-Wallis nonparametric alternative to the parametric analysis of variance (ANOVA) was employed. If a statistically significant finding was observed, post-hoc analyses was conducted to determine what leadership behaviors were preferred based on median scores.

Results of this study did detect a statistically significant difference in the behavior styles of leadership used by coaches among the middle schools 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) positive feedback and democratic behavior, (5) positive feedback and autocratic behavior, (6) positive feedback and social support. Results of this study indicate coaches at the three respective middle school in this study place more emphasis on the social support, democratic and autocratic behavior styles of leadership. This study does not determine which behavior style of leadership is superior for the overall success of a female’s middle school athletic program. What follows is the basis for this study, procedures used to conduct the research, an analysis of the data, conclusions, and finally, recommendations for further research on this topic.

Keywords: Coaches, Coaching Climate, Effective Leadership, Female Athletes, Sports

INTRODUCTIONLeadership has become a very popular topic among sports organizations; several books, articles and studies have been published on this topic of leadership. Our society has the misunderstanding that winning is a sign of a coach with great leadership skills, and coaches are supposed to be applying these leadership skills to motivate athletes or assistant coaches to accomplish a goal for the organization. Superintendents and athletic directors are seeking out successful coaches based on their winning records and not necessarily their leadership skills to become administrators and head coaches. Successful head coaches are targeted by sports organizations to speak to their employees, coaches, and athletes regarding the leadership skills, which have contributed to their success. Coaches and employees of sports organizations attend these conferences to hear what it takes to become successful. However, in most cases the speaker’s assistant coaches or athletes are rarely asked what type of leadership skills their head coach is using.

The researcher explains the coaching profession as a closely connected organization that prides itself on the term “loyalty”. In the coaching profession when a head coach loses his job or takes another job elsewhere they will terminate the entire staff and bring in their own staff. The primary reason is it gives them the power to control their program without any outside influence. If assistant coaches voice their opinion or disagree on certain issues within the sports organization they could be terminated and branded as not being loyal or a team player, which could impede future employment opportunities. This type of behavior used by head coaches gives them the power to treat assistant coaches and athletes anyway they want to.

Coaches will have a positive or a negative influence on the athletes they coach based on the behavior style of leadership used with their athletes. This behavior style of leadership can sway athletes from not participating or it can inspire young athletes to continue to participate in athletic programs throughout their middle and high school years. Athletes participating in youth, middle and high school sports, will remember those coaches who had a positive and negative influence in their lives, and they will remember those coaches who placed more emphasis in winning then developing positive character traits needed to become a successful adult.

The primary reason for selecthing this topic is over the years there seems to be a reduction in female athletes who are participating in middle school athletic programs, which results in a reduction of female athletes participating in high school athletic programs. The reduction of female athletes participating in athletic programs could be contributed to coaches using power instead of leadership as their preferred behavior style of leadership. In 2003, (4) describe power and leadership as two effective tools for coaching, but it is very important that coaches in a position of power understand the difference between the two. Coaches use power as a behavior style of leadership, but power is not a form of leadership it is a form of control (5) states in his research that today’s coaches are known for implementing very strict rules and polices. 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 conform to your ways. This power behavior style of leadership has adopted the term “my way or the highway” and they view themselves as dictators instead of leaders.

The fun and spirit of competition in sports has changed, today sports ranging from youth sports to intercollegiate sports has turned into a business. Society has placed enormous pressure on coaches to win, which has taken the emphasis off of developing young athletes into productive citizens and it has turn coaches into transactional instead of transformational coaches. The researcher states winning is important at all levels, but not at the expense of young athletes dropping out of athletic programs. According to the researches (2) an important factor to consider before determining a behavior style of leadership for males or female athletes is to determine their maturity level and background. The researchers in this study agreed coaches should use both the autocratic and democratic behavior styles of leadership in dealing with their athletes. Researchers clarify that coaches need to understand that in order for them to be successful they must be able to change their behavior style of leadership to one that best fits the athlete’s level of maturity (3).

Coaches use several different behavior styles of leadership. It is imperative coaches expand their knowledge of these different behavior styles of leadership so they know, which style is best suited for their athletes. In their study, the authors (1) describe the different behavior styles of leadership that were developed by (2) Leadership Scale for Sports. The Leadership Scale for Sports is one of the instruments researchers use to determine the behavior style of leadership coaches use with their athletes. Coaches entering the profession need to be under the tutelage of a head coach that displays great leadership qualities amongst their athletes and assistant coaches. Young coaches under the direction of an older or experienced head coach will adapt to their behavior style of leadership regardless if it is positive or negative. The disadvantage to using another head coaches’ behavior style of leadership is this style of leadership might not be appropriate for the coach’s environment. Additionally, if a coach ignores the other behavior styles of leadership available and tries to force the learned style it could have a negative effect in their athletic program.

The researcher would like to address several points concerning leadership in sports organizations. If having good leadership skills was the key to a coaches’ success, then why do they bring their entire staff with them when they go to another job? If a coach has good leadership skills, he or she should be able to go anywhere and build a successful program with the coaches already there. If having a talented team with great athletes is the key to winning a championship, then why aren’t teams with good athletes, ranging from little league to professional sports, successful? (6). If leadership is the key to a coach’s success, then why are coaches who have great leadership skills terminated if they do not win? Does this mean that they are poor leaders? (6). Several coaches in team sports have been replaced by other coaches who have come in and led the same team to a championship within the first year; does this make the new coach a better leader? (6) If leadership is the key to having a successful organization, then why do so few coaches practice good leadership skills? (6).

This researcher will be conducting a study “Preferred Behaviors Used by Coaches in Female Middle School Athletic Programs”. This study will examine the different behavior styles of leadership used by coaches in middle school athletic programs.

Research Question
The researcher of this study is interested in the behavior styles of leadership used by coaches in female middle school athletic programs.

1. Was there a difference in the median scores of the five Leadership Scale of Sports dimensions among eighth grade females in middle school sports?

Subjects
Subjects for this study were 154 female athletes who participated in middle school sports at
their respective middle schools during their seventh and eighth grade years. Female athletes who did not participate in sports during their 7th and 8th grade years did not participate in this study. 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. Middle school athletic coordinators at each 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. 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 on females 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.

Female Coaches - Table 1

RESULTS
The research question in this study asked whether there was a difference in the median scores of the five Leadership Scale of Sports dimensions among eighth grade females in middle school sports. This question can be answered by the results of the Friedman test which clearly shows a statistically significant difference among female athletes in at least one of the five leadership scale of sports dimensions of leadership behavior from Bastrop, Cedar Creek, and Elgin Middle Schools (Table 1).

We need to perform a series of pairwise comparisons to pinpoint where the differences lie. 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.

Female Coaches - Table 2

Based on the Based on the results of the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test there is a statistically significant difference at the .005 level between the (1) democratic and training and instruction, (2) between the 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.

Female Coaches - Table 3

The first statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of democratic behavior and training and instruction among coaches at the respective middle schools (see Table 2). Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 3.13 for democratic behavior, and a mean score of 2.1 for training and instruction. Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.60 for democratic behavior and a mean score of 2.3 for training and instruction. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 3.07 for democratic behavior and a mean score of 2.3 for training and instruction (see Table 3). This data clearly shows coaches at Bastrop and Elgin Middle Schools prefer the democratic behavior style of leadership over the training and instruction behavior style of leadership. Female coaches at Bastrop Middle School ranked the highest in utilizing the democratic behavior style of leadership over training and instruction.

The second statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of autocratic behavior and training and instruction (see Table 2). Coaches at Bastrop Middle School show a mean score of 2.77 for autocratic behavior and a mean score of 2.1 for training and instruction. Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.65 for autocratic behavior and a mean score of 2.3 for training and instruction. Coaches at Elgin Middle School show a mean score of 3.15 for autocratic behavior and a mean score of 2.3 for training and instruction (see Table 3). This data reveals coaches at Elgin and Bastrop Middle Schools prefer the autocratic behavior style of leadership over the training and instruction behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School ranked highest in utilizing the autocratic behavior style of leadership over the training and instruction behavior style of leadership.

The third statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of
social support and training and instruction (see Table 2). Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.88 for social support and a mean score of 2.1 for training and instruction. Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.67 for social support and a mean score of 2.3 for training and instruction. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 3.29 for social support and a mean score of 2.3 for training and instruction (see Table 3). This data reveals coaches at Elgin and Bastrop Middle Schools have a higher regard for the social support behavior style of leadership compared to the training and instruction behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School ranked the highest in utilizing the social support behavior style of leadership compared to the training and instruction behavior style of leadership.

The fourth statistically significant difference in occurred between the dimensions of positive feedback and democratic behavior (see Table 2). Coaches at Bastrop Middle School have a mean score of 2.06 for positive feedback and a mean score of 3.13 for the democratic behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.24 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.60 for the democratic behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 2.29 for positive feedback and mean score of 3.07 for democratic behavior (see Table 3). The result of this data indicate coaches at Bastrop and Elgin Middle Schools have a higher regard for the democratic behavior style of leadership than the positive feedback behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Bastrop Middle School showed the highest regard for the democratic behavior style of leadership compared to the positive feedback behavior style of leadership.

The fifth statistically significant difference in occurred between the dimensions of positive feedback and autocratic behavior. Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.06 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.77 for the autocratic behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.24 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.65 for the autocratic behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 2.29 for positive feedback and a mean score of 3.15 for the autocratic behavior style of leadership (see Table 3). This data reveals coaches at Bastrop, Cedar Creek, and Elgin Middle Schools placed more emphasis on the autocratic behavior style of leadership compared to the positive feedback behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had the highest regard for using the positive feedback style of leadership, and they ranked extremely high in using the autocratic behavior style of leadership amongst Bastrop and Cedar Creek Middle Schools.

The sixth statistically significant difference in occurred between the dimensions of positive feedback and social support (see Table 2). Coaches at Bastrop Middle School had a mean score of 2.06 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.88 for the social support behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Cedar Creek Middle School had a mean score of 2.24 for positive feedback and a mean score of 2.67 for the social support behavior styles of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a mean score of 2.29 for positive feedback and a mean score of 3.29 for the social support behavior style of leadership (see Table 3). This data reveals coaches at the three middle schools have a higher regard for the social support behavior style of leadership compared to the positive feedback behavior style of leadership. Coaches at Elgin Middle School had a higher regard for the social support behavior style of leadership compared to the positive feedback behavior style of leadership.

CONCLUSIONS
In answering the research question, the researcher will discuss the statistically significant differences among coaches 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.

Coaches at all three middle schools did not place much emphasis on the training and instruction behavior style of leadership. Instead more emphasis was placed on the democratic, social support and autocratic behavior styles of leadership. These behavior styles of leadership used by coaches at the middle school level do not develop the fundamental movement patterns and skills necessary to improving athletic performance. These behavior styles of leadership do not teach the technical skills and tactical skills of a particular sport. The data reveals a high mean score of 3.58 for the dimension of social support behavior style of leadership among coaches at the middle schools in this study. The data shows a high mean score of 3.54 for the dimension of the democratic behavior style of leadership among coaches at the three middle schools in this study. The data also shows a high mean score of 3.43 for the dimension of the autocratic behavior style of leadership among coaches at the three middle schools in this study. The data clearly shows a low mean score for the dimension of training and instruction behavior style of leadership at the three middle schools with a mean of 2.24 (see Table 1).

In the dimensions of (4) positive feedback and democratic behavior, (5) positive feedback and autocratic behavior, and (6) positive feedback and social support, the researcher will discuss the statistically significant differences among coaches at the three middle schools. Coaches at the three middle schools did not place much emphasis on the positive feedback behavior style of leadership. Instead more emphasis was placed on the social support behavior style of leadership which shows coaches have a concern for their athlete’s wellbeing, they create a positive and nurturing atmosphere, and develop interpersonal relationships with their athletes. Emphasis was also placed on the democratic behavior style of leadership which gives athletes the opportunity to participate in decisions pertaining to group goals, practice methods, game tactics and strategies. These behavior styles of leadership used by coaches in the middle school athletic programs do not motivate, inspire and reinforce positive behaviors needed for the proper development of a young female athlete. The data in reveals a high mean score of 3.58 for the dimension of the social support behavior style of leadership among coaches at the three middle schools in this study. The data clearly shows a high mean score of 3.54 for the dimension of the democratic behavior style of leadership among coaches at the three middle schools in this study. The data also shows a high mean score of 3.43 for the dimension of the autocratic behavior style of leadership among coaches at the three middle schools in this study. The data clearly shows the positive feedback behavior style of leadership has the lowest mean score among female coaches at the three middle schools with a mean score of 2.2 (see Table 1).

APPLICATION IN SPORT
The author of this study makes the following recommendations for further research. First, further research is needed on the leadership behavior styles used by coaches in middle school athletic programs and the effect these behavior styles of leadership could have on the future development of females participating in middle and high school sports. Future research should focus on how the various behavior style of leadership contribute to a successful and unsuccessful athletic program. The second recommendation is for future researchers to focus the study on females who participate in middle school sports and who participate in high school sports in the same school district during their senior year to determine if there was a difference in the behavior styles of leadership used by their coaches in middle school athletic programs compared to coaches in high school athletic programs In addition, future research could be done to determine if leadership behavior styles used by coaches at the middle school level contribute to a lack of participation by females at the middle school and high school level. The third recommendation is to have other researchers conduct the same study at middle school athletic programs in other school districts, and then compare the school districts results to determine if there is a difference between the behavior styles of leadership used by coaches in other school districts. Finally, it is important to note that a factor that contributed to the researcher’s success in this study was having a strong relationship with the athletic coordinators at the respective middle schools in this study. This made it very easy to collect the data. The coaches had an interest in this study and were eager to find out the results. It is the goal of this study that coaches consider the data in this study and use it to improve on the leadership behavior styles they use in their daily interaction in female athletic programs. Researchers should pursue additional studies on this topic and female coaches should look into this and similar studies to improve their interaction in female middle school athletic programs.

REFERENCES
1. Chelladurai, P., & Harold A. R. (1995). Leadership and Satisfaction in Athletics. Journal of Sports & Exercise Psychology (17), 276 – 293.
2. Chelladurai, P., & Saleh, S. D. (1980). Dimensions of Leader Behavior in Sports; Development of a Leadership Scale. Journal of Sport Psychology (2), 34-45.
3. Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K.H. (1969). Life Cycle Theory of Leadership Training and Development Journal, (23), 26-34. 1969.
4. Laios, A., Theodaorakis, N., & Gargalinaos, D. (2003). Leadership and Power: Two Important Factors for Effective Coaching. International Sports Journal, 7(1), 150-154.
5. Sage, G. (1973). The Coach as Management: Organizational Leadership in American Sport. National Association for Physical Education in Higher Education, 19, 35-40.
6. Tucker, R. (2008). An analysis of leadership qualities that influence male and female athletes in middle school interscholastic team sports. Doctorate of sports management, dissertation, United States Sports Academy, United States Alabama. (Publication No. AAT 3318805).

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