Authors: Jason J. Holder, Daniel M. Smith, and Thaddeus J. France, III
Springfield College, Department of Physical Education and Health Education
Jason J. Holder, Ph.D.
Department of Physical Education and Health Education
263 Alden Street, Springfield, MA 01109
Dr. Jason J Holder is an associate professor and head wrestling coach in the Physical Education and Health Education Department at Springfield College.
Dr. Daniel M. Smith is an assistant professor of research and statistics in the Physical Education and Health Education Department at Springfield College.
Thaddeus J. France III is a professor in the Physical Education and Health Education Department at Springfield College.
Coaching Leadership Behaviors: A Comparison of High School and Collegiate Wrestling Coaches
Purpose: In this study, we compared the coaching behaviors and leadership styles of high school and collegiate (NCAA Division III) head wrestling coaches.
Methods: To assess student-athletes’ perceptions of their coaches’ behaviors, the Coaching Behavior Scale for Sport (CBS-S) was administered to high school (n = 77) and collegiate (n = 62) student-athletes at three times over the wrestling season (preseason, midseason, postseason). To assess coaches’ self-perceived leadership styles, the Leadership Scale for Sport (LSS) was administered one time to high school (n = 24) and collegiate (n = 24) head wrestling coaches.
Results: Significant increases across the season were indicated for the CBS-S subscales of physical training and conditioning, mental preparation, goal setting, competition strategies, and positive rapport. For the CBS-S subscales of technical skills and competition strategies, high school head coaches scored significantly higher than collegiate coaches. There were no significant differences in LSS subscale scores when comparing high school and collegiate coaches.
Conclusions: The findings of the current study can be useful in identifying the multiple factors involved in successful coaching. They could prove helpful for increasing coaches’ awareness of high school and collegiate student-athlete perceptions of coaching behaviors throughout three different time points of the season.
Applications in Sport: The results provide an opportunity for coaches to improve in areas where coaches of their particular level (high school, collegiate) are lacking and use this feedback to gauge their own coaching behaviors and leadership styles.
Keywords: Autocratic leadership, Democratic leadership, Mental preparation, Physical training
Success in sport is multifactorial (2). One of the many factors that influences athletic success is the leadership of the coach and their unique ability to positively impact the lives of their athletes (9). In 1977, Barrow (3) defined leadership as “the behavioral process of influencing individuals and groups toward set goals.” According to Dwyer and Fischer (10), leadership competencies include achieving results, communicating effectively, trustworthiness, optimism, and positive regard. A coach’s leadership behaviors are critical for the athlete’s development (2). Coaches that demonstrate positive leadership characteristics will have a greater impact on athletes reaching their maximum potential.
Leadership in sport has also been defined as a process that involves the interaction between the coach, the athlete, and the present situation (5). Côté et al. (7) asserted that the coach, athlete, and environment are three fundamental variables that interact in coaching situations and have been consistently recognized in existing theoretical models of coaching leadership. In contrast, Turman (17) maintained that regardless of the situation, leaders exhibit both task and relationship components in an attempt to guide their subordinates. Smoll and Smith (15) added that an athlete’s social network, a network comprised of relationships, is important and contains critical components for success. The social network has been described as the “primary family of sport” and also called the “athletic triangle” which is divided into three major relationships: athlete-parent; athlete-coach; and coach-parent (19). Although peer relationships can play a significant role, the focus is generally on the relationships between the parents, coaches, and athletes. According to Wylleman and Lavallee (19), athletes have perceived that parents play a crucial role in various stages of their own athletic experience. The quality of the athlete-parent interactions evolves throughout an athlete’s development from a highly active role in their child’s sport participation to a role where they provide more freedom to their child. Initially, parents strongly advocate sport participation, hard work, and athletic development, but eventually parents allow their child greater freedom to make their own decisions regarding athletic participation (19).
Coaches’ participation in athlete development is similar to that of the parents (19). Coaches generally reward youth athletes in the initiation stage for effort rather than prioritizing the results. Coaches who use positive reinforcement at this stage of an athletes’ development will likely increase the retention of the young athletes’ sport involvement. Greater retention rates have been observed for athletes during the initiation stage when coached by those who were trained to use more praise following desirable performances and more instruction and encouragement following skill error, when compared to athletes who were coached by untrained coaches (15). Most research studies indicate that athletes prefer encouragement, positive reinforcement, and instruction (18).
Few studies have explored leadership behaviors of coaches throughout the season. Moreover, very little research has been conducted that compare the leadership behaviors of high school and collegiate coaches. Turman (18) found significant changes throughout the course of the season on three of the five subscales on the Leadership Scale for Sport (LSS; 6), which include training and instruction, democratic behaviors, autocratic behaviors, social support, and positive feedback.
Training and instruction refers to the level of emphasis the coach puts on improving athletes’ performance through the facilitation of hard strenuous training; instruction of skills, techniques, and tactics of the sport; clarifying the relationship among the members; and structuring and coordinating the members’ activities (16). Coaches who use democratic behavior allow greater participation by the athletes in decision making that pertains to group goals, practice methods, and game tactics and strategies. Conversely, coaches who use autocratic behaviors make decisions independently of athletes’ opinions and emphasize personal authority. Social support is characterized by concern for the welfare of the individual athletes, positive group atmosphere, and warm interpersonal relations with members. Finally, positive feedback behaviors reinforce athletes by recognizing and rewarding good performance (16).
Two areas investigated in leadership behaviors are democratic leadership behavior and autocratic leadership behaviors. Democratic leadership is commonly characterized by those who are more athlete oriented and less task oriented (2). An athlete-oriented coach will focus on the welfare of the athlete. Task-oriented coaches, on the other hand, mainly focus on accomplishing specific tasks and activities (11). Democratic coaches who focus more on athlete welfare are typically more supportive and provide more instruction and positive reinforcement including direct feedback to their players. Democratic coaches also use fewer controlling tactics by allowing student-athletes to make more decisions. When coached by an individual using a democratic style, athletes are typically involved in decision making to a greater extent and encouraged to independently solve problems that arise in practice or competition. Those coaches who employ democratic coaching behaviors are more likely to foster an increased sense of self-confidence, self-esteem, competence, independence and satisfaction (2). According to Amorose and Anderson-Butcher (1), these emotional states can often lead to a greater sense of intrinsic motivation. Democratic coaches who are less oriented towards tasks (e.g., the outcomes, results, or winning) may be more likely to reduce anxiety experienced by their athletes. These coaches display more personal care and are typically more interested in establishing positive interpersonal relationships with his or her players. When the team or individual loses, these coaches will generally first talk with their athletes, try to analyze their performance, and even try to provide comfort. Democratic coaches also are more likely to emphasize the importance of players in contributing to the team’s success (2).
Coaches who use autocratic leadership behaviors are more task-oriented, placing more emphasis on the accomplishment of tasks and the outcome of the team (i.e., winning) and less emphasis on athlete welfare. Autocratic coaches are more directive and controlling. They do not allow athletes to be involved in any decision making. Autocratic coaches solve problems and make decisions on their own, and do not feel the need to explain their actions to the rest of the team. When compared to a democratic style, autocratic coaches are less supportive, less instructive, and less rewarding. They are also characterized as being less flexible, less innovative, and less ready to try new training or teaching methods. Autocratic coaches are not open to criticism and are highly confident. They influence through their authoritative leadership, severe approach, position of power, demanding respect and obedience from their athletes (2). Coaches who use autocratic leadership styles will punish poor performance, failure, or insufficient efforts. However, they may be more tolerant towards athletes of higher ability (i.e., the star players). Autocratic coaches offer to help only in extreme circumstances such as injuries or illness. An autocratic coach will not invest their time into less capable athletes who they feel will not help the team produce (2).
Turman (18) reported that athlete perceptions of their coach using autocratic behaviors, as well as athlete preferences for autocratic coaching behaviors, were higher in the middle and at the end of the season compared to the beginning of the season. Coaches, however, did not self-perceive a significant change in autocratic coaching behaviors over the course of the season. Conversely, athlete preferences and perceived level of positive feedback was higher at the beginning of the season than at the middle and at the end of the season. Similarly, coaches perceived themselves as using more positive feedback towards the beginning of the season than at the end of the season. Athletes perceived coaches to use significantly less training and instruction in the middle and the end of the season when compared to the beginning of the season (18). Finally, experienced coaches perceived themselves to use more autocratic coaching behaviors at the beginning and middle of the season versus the end of the season. Conversely, inexperienced coaches perceived themselves to use more autocratic coaching behaviors at the end of the season versus the beginning and the middle of the season (18).
Turman (18) stated that athletes from modern sports (e.g., football, hockey, and basketball) prefer more democratic coaching behaviors. Conversely, athletes of traditional sports (i.e., judo, Kendo) preferred coaches that utilize autocratic behaviors. Additionally, athletes who were involved in higher levels of sport also preferred autocratic leadership styles. Turman (18) added that high school coaches self-reported using higher levels of positive feedback, training and instruction, and lower levels of autocratic behaviors.
Turman’s (17) research explored the preferred and perceived leadership styles of high school wrestling coaches according to responses of their athletes. The wrestling coaches also assessed their self-perceived leadership styles, at the beginning, middle, and end of the season. Comparisons were made between unsuccessful and successful teams, and by student-athletes’ years of experience (17). Turman (17) reported that coaches of successful teams used a consistent amount of autocratic leadership throughout the season, while coaches of unsuccessful teams increased in autocratic leadership from the beginning to the end of the season (17). The author found that first year wrestlers perceived more social support at the middle and end of the season while second year wrestlers perceived more social support in the beginning and end of the season, with a decrease at midseason. Third year wrestlers perceived more social support at the beginning and middle of the season, with a decrease at the end of the season. Fourth year wrestlers reported more social support at the beginning of the season versus the middle and the end of the season (17). Finally, Turman (17) found that coaches’ self-perceptions of their use of positive feedback was shown to decline from the beginning of the season to the end of the season for unsuccessful teams.
The development of an athlete has been categorized in various ways. Côté et al. (7) provided one of the more widely used classifications for athlete development. According to Côté et al. (7), athletic development has four stages including1) the sampling years, 2) recreational years, 3) specializing years, and 4) the investment years. The sampling stage takes place during the young athlete’s childhood while the recreational and specializing years both occur during adolescence. However, the specializing years are considered a higher level of athletic development and a step up from the recreational phase… The last phase, the investment years, occurs towards the end of the athlete’s adolescence and continues into early adulthood (7).
There is little research that has explored the relationship between these levels of development and the perceptions of coaching and leadership behaviors. Few studies have explored differences in coaches’ behaviors at the high school and collegiate levels. According to Schubiger (14), college athletes perceive coaches to use significantly more social support and training and instruction than high school athletes. However, the participants in this study were solely football players. Wylleman and Lavallee (19) reported that student-athletes who have maintained involvement in athletics through college claim that coach and parental support is critical in the development of their academic and athletic success. A question that remains, however, is whether athletes’ perceptions of their coaches’ leadership style vary by developmental stage or level of athletic development.
A number of gaps exist in the literature regarding wrestling athletes and wrestling coaches. Differences in self-perceived leadership styles between high school and college coaches have not been investigated. Differences in coaching behaviors as perceived by wrestlers at high school and collegiate levels are not known, nor is it known whether those self-perceptions change over the course of a season. The aims of this study were (1) to compare the perceptions of high school and collegiate wrestlers, in terms of their coaches’ behaviors, across three time points in the wrestling season, and (2) to explore differences in high school and collegiate coaches’ self-perceived leadership styles.
The following study was an ex post facto comparison of high school and collegiate wrestlers’ perceived coaching behaviors. Prior to collecting data, the Institutional Review Board from Springfield College approved the study protocol. The researcher administered the Coaching Behavior Scale (CBS-S) (9) to high school and Division III collegiate wrestlers at three different points throughout the wrestling season (preseason, midseason, postseason). The LSS (6) was administered one time to Division III collegiate and high school head wrestling coaches.
High school wrestlers and head coaches were identified as members of individual state interscholastic athletic associations in the eastern United States. In order to participate, a high school wrestler must have completed at least one full season at the present level of competition (i.e., freshmen were excluded). Only head coaches (i.e., no assistant coaches) were included. Collegiate wrestlers and head coaches were recruited from the National Collegiate Athletic Association Northeast region. Again, in order to participate, a wrestler must have completed at least one full season at the present level of competition, so freshmen were excluded. College head coaches who participated were members of the Division III National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA).
A total of 573 wrestlers (312 high school, 261 college) were invited to participate. Of these, 269 (46.9%) responded at all three data collection sessions. After removing participants with incomplete or monotone responses or not meeting inclusion criteria (i.e., first year students), data from 139 wrestlers (77 high school, 62 college) were analyzed. High school participants (wrestling experience: M = 4.09, SD = 3.03 years) included 28 sophomores, 31 juniors, and 18 seniors. Collegiate participants (wrestling experience: M = 9.79, SD = 3.82 years) included 29 sophomores, 14 juniors, 18 seniors, and 1 graduate student.
Head coach participants included 24 high school (coaching experience: M = 19.83, SD = 11.59 years) and 24 collegiate (coaching experience: M = 12.83, SD = 8.11 years) coaches. In the sample, coaches’ levels of education were similar for the 24 high school coaches (1 high school graduate, 9 with bachelor’s degrees, 13 with master’s degrees, and 1 with a doctoral degree) and 24 collegiate coaches (10 with bachelor’s degrees, 14 with master’s degrees).
Coaching Behavior Scale for Sport
The Coaching Model (CM) has been used as the conceptual framework for numerous studies examining coaches and athletes and was instrumental in the development of the CBS-S (8). The CM was developed around six components: competition, training, organization, coach’s personal characteristics, athletes’ characteristics, and contextual factors (7). These components are divided into two levels. Level 1 includes variables that represent actual coaching behaviors that directly impact the development of the athlete (i.e., competition, training, and organization). Level two includes variables that affect coaching behaviors (i.e., personal characteristics, athlete’s characteristics, and contextual factors; 7). The main advantage of the CBS-S is that the instrument captures the multidimensional aspects of coaches’ work that can be measured (12). Mallett and Côté (13) affirmed that the CBS-S is psychometrically sound, grounded in athletes’ and coaches’ experiences, and has been widely used by different high-performance sport programs as an instrument that provides comprehensive and useful feedback to coaches.
The CBS-S is a 47-item scale consisting of seven dimensions of coaching behaviors. Subscales include physical training and conditioning (7 items), technical skills (8 items), goal setting (6 items), mental preparation (5 items), competition strategies (7 items), positive rapport (6 items), and negative rapport (8 items). These dimensions have been identified by coaches and athletes as being key characteristics high-performance coaches should possess. Each item is rated by athletes on a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from “never” (1) to “always” (7).
Leadership Scale for Sport
The LSS was designed using the Multidimensional Model of Leadership (MDL; 6) to measure coaches’ leadership behavior within the context of sport. Chelladurai and Saleh (6) examined how coaches use three components of the MDL, member characteristics, situational characteristics, and required leadership behavior using five dimensions of leadership strategies in athletics. The LSS is a 40-item scale consisting of the following five dimensions; training and instruction (13 items), democratic behaviors (9 items), autocratic behaviors (5 items), positive feedback (5 items), and social support (8 items). The LSS is designed to measure the coach’s decision-making style (democratic and autocratic style), the coach’s motivational tendencies (social support and positive feedback), and the coach’s instructional behavior (training and instruction). Each item is rated by the athletes on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “never” (1) to “always” (5).
Items on the demographic questionnaire for coaches included coaching experience (in years), success rate (win/loss record), occupation (and whether their occupation is affiliated with the school where they are coaching), and highest level of education. Student-athlete participants were asked to indicate their school, year in school, home state, and wrestling experience (in years).
The principal from each high school and the director of athletics from each collegiate institution were contacted via email to request permission to contact the head wrestling coaches . When necessary, follow-up emails were sent. After receiving permission, the Primary Investigator (PI) contacted the head coach and requested a time to collect data. A reverse consent letter was also sent via email to the high school head coaches prior to data collection requesting forms to be handed out to all athletes under 18 years of age. Athletes over the age of 18 years were asked to complete an informed consent when participating. If parents of athletes below the age of 18 chose to have their student-athlete opt out of the study, they were asked to return the reverse consent letter to the high school coach. No parents chose to have their student-athletes opt out of the study.
Collegiate Wrestler Data Collection
Data collection times for collegiate wrestlers were preseason (October 10 – November 3), midseason (December 12 – December 30), and postseason (February 6 – February 20). The first data collection session began by gaining athletes’ implied consent. Following consent, athletes completed a demographic form and the CBS-S. Both forms were coded with a non-identifiable alpha-numeric code. The first, second, and third CBS-S administrations were identical. The PI utilized a script to introduce the scale and provide instructions for completion. All forms were collected, placed into an envelope, and sealed until data entry.
High School Wrestler Data Collection
Data collection occurred three times for high school student-athletes: preseason (November 21 – December 6), midseason (December 22 – January 10), and postseason (February 13 – February 24). At the first data collection session, the PI or research assistant checked with the coach for any reverse consent forms returned by parents that would exclude student-athletes from the study. Athletes completed the demographic form and the CBS-S. Both were coded with the same non-identifiable alpha-numeric code. The first, second, and third CBS-S administrations were identical. The PI used a script to introduce the scale and provide instructions for completion. All forms were collected, placed into an envelope, and sealed until data entry.
Coach Data Collection
Data was collected electronically from coaches one time during the wrestling season from January 17 to February 28. The online survey was prefaced with an implied consent statement. Head coaches were asked to complete an online demographic form and the self-perceived version of the LSS.
Descriptive and inferential statistics were conducted using SPSS version 21.0 (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY). Means and standard deviations, by academic level, were computed for each subscale of the CBS-S and LSS. A 2×3 mixed factorial multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to examine the main and interaction effects of between-subject level (high school, college) and within-subject time (preseason, midseason, postseason) on the linear combination of all 7 CBS-S subscales. A one-way MANOVA was used to examine the main effect of between-subject level (high school, college) on the linear combination of all 5 LSS subscales. Depending on significance (p < .05) of effects tested with MANOVA, post hoc individual ANOVAs or t-tests were performed for each CBS-S or LSS subscale, respectively. Greenhouse-Geisser adjusted results were reported for within-subject effects reflecting non-sphericity as indicated by a significant Mauchly’s test. Bonferroni-corrected p-values were used in all pairwise comparisons examined.
Descriptive statistics of the CBS-S and LSS subscale scores are displayed in Tables 1 and 2, respectively. A 2×3 MANOVA revealed no significant level x time interaction effect on the linear combination of CBS-S subscale scores; F(14, 124) = 1.14, p = .331, = .114. The main effect of level was significant; F(7, 131) = 3.09, p = .005, = .142. High school wrestlers rated their coaches higher on technical skills (M = 6.411, SD = .70) compared to college wrestlers (M = 5.916, SD = 1.06); F(1, 137) = 13.74, p < .001, = .091, 95% CI difference [.23, .76]. High school wrestlers also rated their coaches higher on competition strategies (M = 6.326, SD = .80) compared to college wrestlers (M = 5.965, SD = .83); F(1, 137) = 9.74, p = .002, = .066, 95% CI difference [.13, .59].
Table 1: Descriptive Statistics of CBS-S Subscale Scores, by Level and Time
Table 2: Descriptive Statistics of LSS Subscale Scores, by Level
|Training & Instruction||High School||4.38||.35|
|Democratic Behavior||High School||3.04||.56|
|Autocratic Behavior||High School||2.50||.46|
|Social Support||High School||3.38||.51|
|Positive Feedback||High School||4.33||.45|
The main effect of time was not significant; F(14, 124) = 1.68, p = .067, = .160. However, on a univariate level, significant changes over three time points of the season were found for 5 of the 7 CBS-S subscales with small to moderate effect sizes ( ranging from .027 to .051). In particular, (see Figure 1) postseason ratings were significantly higher than preseason ratings for physical training and conditioning (p = .014, 95% CI change [.03, .40]), mental preparation (p = .035, 95% CI change [.01, .45]), goal setting (p = .002, 95% CI change [.11, .63]), competition strategies (p = .028, 95% CI change [.02, .36]), and positive rapport (p = .019, 95% CI change [.03, .46]). Midseason ratings were significantly higher than preseason ratings for goal setting (p = .043, 95% CI change [.01, .48]), and positive rapport (p = .020, 95% CI change [.03, .42]).
Figure 1: CBS-S Subscale Means Across the Wrestling Season
Note. Error bars indicate standard deviations; * p < .05; ** p < .01
Finally, one-way MANOVA revealed no significant main effect of level (i.e., no significant differences between 24 high school and 24 college coaches) on the linear combination of LSS subscale scores; F(5, 42) = 2.25, p = .067, = .211.
The leadership of a coach is critical for the development of an athlete. Coaches with positive leadership characteristics can help athletes reach their full potential (2). The current study gives merit to reports from Baric and Bucik (2) that success in sport is multifactorial. The purpose of this study was to compare high school and collegiate wrestling head coaches’ behaviors (as perceived by their athletes) and leadership styles (self-perceived) and to examine changes in coaching behaviors a different time points in the season.
To the best knowledge of the researchers, this study was the first to examine coaching behavior changes over the course of a season using the CBS-S. Relative to preseason, the CBS-S dimensions referring to physical training and conditioning, mental preparation, goal setting, competition strategies, and positive rapport increased as the season progressed. The results of the current study differed from Turman (18) who concluded that athlete perceptions for training and instruction (measured using the LSS) were higher at the beginning of the season when compared to the middle and the end of the season, and that high school coaches provided significantly more positive feedback in the beginning of the season compared to the end of the season. It is important to note that, although the CBS-S used in the current study accounts for mental preparation, goal setting, and competition strategies, the LSS used by Turman (18) does not.
In the current study, the only significant differences between high school and college coaching behaviors existed on the technical skills and the competition strategies subscales of the CBS-S. High school wrestlers rated their coaches higher on each of these subscales, when compared to the responses of collegiate wrestlers. These findings are consistent with athlete developmental levels. High school athletes must prioritize technical skills and competition strategies as they are still developing those competencies in the sport. Collegiate athletes have more experience (in our sample, by a mean of 5.7 years), their technical skills are more engrained, and their efficacy is higher due to successful past performances and becoming a member of a collegiate varsity team (19). Hence, the differences in technical skills and competition strategies observed in this study may be attributed, at least in part, to the differences in athletes’ stages of development. Collegiate student-athlete may be more critical of their coaches due to their more developed skill level and heightened level of knowledge in the sport.
According to Bloom and Sosniak (4), high school student-athletes are transitioning from the initiation stage to the developmental stage of athletic development. In the developmental stage, the coach is more personally involved, emphasizes technical proficiency, and expects progress through discipline and hard work. According to Wylleman and Lavallee (19), the dominant role of the coach is perceived to diminish in the latter stages of the athlete’s career in favor of more of a partnership. In contrast, college student-athletes are typically well into the developmental stage, and approaching the mastery stage, of athletic development. At this stage, the coach may have greater expectations for the student-athlete to take ownership of their training and preparation (19).
Côté et al. (7) hypothesized that the following outcomes of coach-athlete interaction are important to athletes’ development: positive connections, good character, care and compassion. Wylleman and Lavallee (19) maintained that collegiate athletes must develop self-discipline and motivation in their academic endeavors as they continue to develop at a higher athletic level. Time management becomes an important factor when transitioning into collegiate sport (19). Furthermore, Wylleman and Lavallee (19) claimed that as athletes develop during adolescence, parental influence on the child’s sport participation is perceived to change from a more active role to one in which the child is given more autonomy in decisions regarding their athletic participation.
In the current study, no significant differences were found in high school and collegiate head coaches’ self-perception of leadership styles as measured by the five LSS subscales. According to Baric and Bucik (2), democratic coaches who are less results-oriented (i.e., winning) may reduce the anxiety of their athletes. Following a team or individual defeat, democratic coaches will talk with their athletes, analyze their performance, and even try to provide comfort. Democratic coaches emphasize the importance of athletes to the team’s success. They display more personal care and are more interested in establishing positive interpersonal relationships (2). As shown in Table 2, both high school and collegiate coach participants in this study demonstrated higher subscale means for democratic leadership than autocratic leadership. Previous research indicates that coaches who use democratic behaviors are more likely to foster emotional states that increase intrinsic motivation, such as increased sense of self-confidence, competence, self-esteem, independence, and satisfaction (2). Côté et al. (7) maintained that competence and confidence are important for athlete development. Competence satisfaction facilitates growth of an athlete and increases intrinsic motivation. In athletics, confidence is fragile but is important for the cognitive and affective behaviors of athletes (7).
According to the CM developed by Côté et al. (8) organization is listed as one of six variables that are critical for optimal learning environment for athlete development. Furthermore, organization is one of three elements that reflect coaching behaviors, and directly impact the athletes’ development (7). After examination of the self-perceptions of the student-athletes, the results indicate that the CBS-S provides a more in-depth look at the coaching profession when compared to the LSS.
One of the major strengths of this study was the exploration of changes in coaching behaviors over the course of a season. The main effect of time (in the absence of an interaction effect of level and time) suggests that the increases observed in five out of seven CBS-S subscales was similar for high school and collegiate head coaches (see Figure 1). Goal setting and positive rapport showed significant increases from preseason to midseason, which held at postseason. Physical training and conditioning, mental preparation, and competition strategies showed a more gradual, but significant, increase from preseason to postseason. No significant changes were observed in technical skills and negative rapport. Further research will be needed to examine potential factors explaining these changes or lack thereof (e.g., developmental level, changes in competitive focus, etc.).
Notably, there are several differences in the instruments used in this study. For example, the LSS does not account for some of the coaching behaviors included in the CBS-S such as goal setting and mental preparation. Whereas the LSS measures perceived, preferred, and self-perceived leadership styles of coaches, the CBS-S only measures coaches’ behaviors as perceived by their athletes. Preferred leadership style of the student-athletes was not considered in the present study and represent another area for future investigation. Additionally, creating new versions of the CBS-S that include preferred and coaches’ self-perceived behaviors would be valuable future research in this area. Additional avenues for future research include: (a) exploring the potential impacts of actual leadership style or coaching behavior on athletes’ attitudes and performance, and whether effects differ at the high school and collegiate levels; (b) assessing changes in coaches’ self-perceived leadership across the season; (c) comparing different sports, types of sports (e.g., modern vs. traditional as reported in 18; interactive vs. coactive sports), and/or competitive levels (e.g., NCAA Division I, II, III), financial resources available, success (e.g., win/loss records), and so on, in terms of preferred and perceived leadership styles and coaching behaviors.
Applications in Sport
Sport can provide a positive context for continued development of student-athletes. Student-athletes that transition from high school to collegiate sport will learn and grow interacting with a variety of coaches throughout these years. The findings of the current study can be useful in identifying the multiple factors involved in successful coaching. Current and future coaches are encouraged to use the results provided as information on what skills they should look to strengthen as they further pursue the coaching profession. Utilizing the findings provided in this study could prove helpful for increasing coaches’ awareness of high school and collegiate student-athlete perceptions of coaching behaviors throughout three different time points of the season. Coaches can use student-athlete responses to self-reflect and apply the feedback to improve the outcomes of their own coaching experiences. Coaches can also gain an idea of where they might score in comparison to other coaches at either the high school or collegiate level. The data provides an opportunity for coaches to work on improving in areas where coaches of their particular level (high school, collegiate) are lacking and use this feedback to gauge their own leadership styles. In doing this assessment, coaches can strive to improve in these areas in an effort to become more effective leaders. Evidence suggests that there are many similarities between high school and collegiate wrestling coaches. According to our data, the perception of student-athletes from each group expressed that their coaches changed in the subscales of physical training and conditioning, mental preparation, and competition strategies over time throughout the season. Perhaps if coaches from both groups emphasized these subscales consistently throughout the season, student-athletes would have better results.
Differences also exist between high school and collegiate head wrestling coaches such as the perceived knowledge of technical skills and competition strategies. This might be explained by the level of the student-athlete. High school student-athletes are newer to the sport than collegiate student-athletes who have been exposed to the sport for a long period of time. If a student-athlete is competing at the collegiate level, it is likely that they have had some level of success in the sport. What worked for them in high school could be perceived as the high school coach’s emphasis on technical skills and competition strategies.
Collegiate coaches deal with managing student-athletes who have less structured schedules. They spend more time helping to navigate the college environment where student-athletes are exposed to more freedom and distractions that are associated with college life. Although high school student-athletes may have a more structured daily schedule, coaches may have to deal with other issues such as parental involvement, transportation to and from practices, or other issues associated with the life of a high school student. The current study highlights that student-athletes have specific needs. While many student-athlete needs may be individualized, they may also depend on the level (high school, collegiate) of the student-athlete as well as the leadership style of their coach. The developmental level and leadership style can impact immediate performance and continued performance as athletes advance to higher levels of sport participation.
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- Chelladurai P. (1993). Leadership. In R. N. Singer, M. Murphy, & L. K. Tennant (Eds.), Handbook on research on sport psychology, (pp. 647-671). New York: Macmillan.
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