Authors: Tucker, Raymond & Black, Willie
Raymond Tucker, D.S.M., CFSC, CSCS * D, CSAC, FMS, USATF, USAW
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology
University of Houston at Victoria
3007 N. Ben Wilson
Victoria, Texas 77901
Raymond Tucker, D.S.M., CFSC, CSCS*D, CSAC, USATF, USAW is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Houston in Victoria, Texas. His research interests focus on leadership and coaching, and program design to improve athletic performance.
Willie J. Black, Jr. Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Houston in Victoria, Texas. His research interests focus on leadership, physical education pedagogy, and social justice in physical education.
Student Success: An Exploratory Examination About Male Athletes Perceptions of Coaching Behaviors in Middle School
The purpose of this study was to investigate male athletes’ perception of the behavior exhibited by coaches in the treatment of their athletes. Data was collected using the Leadership Scale for Sports consisting of forty items describing a specific behavior a coach could exhibit based on the five dimensions of leadership, which are autocratic, democratic, positive feedback, social support, and training and instruction. This study compares (total N = 170) 8th-grademale athletes who participated in team sports at the same middle school. Results of the Friedman test rank the values in the following order democratic 3.93, autocratic 3.65, social support 3.59, positive feedback 1.94, training and instruction 1.89. The results of the Friedman show there was a statistically significant difference in at least one of the five dimensions of leadership. A series of pairwise comparisons to pinpoint where the differences lie was conducted by performing 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. Results of the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test show a statistically significant difference at the 0.005 level between democratic, training instruction, autocratic, training instruction, social support, training instruction, positive feedback, democratic behavior, positive feedback, autocratic behavior, and positive feedback, social support. For this study, the researcher will be focusing on democratic, training instruction, autocratic, training instruction, social support, training instruction. Results of the data display 8th-grademale athletes perceive their coaches to emphasize the (LSS) dimensions of democratic, autocratic, and social support, compared to training and instruction. This study does not conclude which behavior styles of leadership are superior to the success of participating in 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.
Key words: Leadership, Coaching, Youth Sports, Students, Middle School Athletics
Leadership in athletics refers to the process of inspiring or influencing athletes to perform their tasks enthusiastically and competently to meet the team’s goals (6), and has been considered as a main reason for success and failure of an athlete or a sport team (13). Leadership, as provided by the coach, plays a significant role in the lives of athletes and the athletes’ sport experience. Further studies on the topic of leadership by (12,19,23,27,28); refers to coaches as leaders. The findings in these studies are inconsistent because not all coaches are true leaders. The title coach is considered a position of leadership; however, not all individuals employed as coaches in the profession have developed the appropriate leadership skills to be called a leader. Several researchers have investigated the characteristics of successful leaders. (8,10) revealed leadership behaviors in large are a function of the leaders’ personal attributes. (33) state the personality attributes of leaders have been of interest for a long time, going back to the origins of scholarly work on leadership, which are commonly known as trait theories. Trait theories according to (5,37) are classified as energy levels, locus of control, maturity, integrity, achievement orientation, have been purported to predict leader effectiveness.
Many teens and younger children participate in recreational or competitive sporting activities, in which they are instructed by a coach (17). These coaches possess many different qualifications and personality traits, leadership styles, and coaching strategies. The behavior style of leadership exhibited by the coach could have a positive or detrimental effect on the psychological and physiological development of the athlete and the cohesion of the team. (12) contend the leadership provided by the coach is instrumental in enhancing the ultimate performance of the group under him or her. One of the more important roles of the coach in competitive sport is to assist athletes to become more proficient in their performance (25).
There is a difference between an effective leader and a successful leader (3,15,16,36). A coach’s successful leadership changes an athlete’s behavior as a function of the coach’s effort and moves others to behave as the manager/coach intends them to behave. The task may be completed, and coaches’ needs may be satisfied, but the players needs are ignored (16). Effective leadership in coaching occurs when athletes perform in accordance with the coach’s intentions while finding their own needs satisfied. Effective coaches are concerned with maintaining good relationships with team members and winning specific contest (3,15,26,36). Further studies on the topic of leadership by (20) explain effective coaching behaviors result in the athletes reaching personal achievements, performance goals and positive psychological outcomes.
Coaches perceived by their athletes as exhibiting a successful or effective behavior style of leadership need to consider the detrimental effects this behavior could have on the coach-athlete relationship. If these relationships are formed by less empathetic coaches, use negative feedback in an autocratic coaching style, and emphasize winning as more important than the development of athletes, the results can be counterproductive to both the athlete and the team’s success. Athletes in adverse environments may develop negative self-concepts, emotional and or physical exhaustion, psychological withdraw, and feelings of devaluation (35). Coaching behaviors are experienced by athletes daily and are one of the few variables in sport that is totally under the control of the coach (18). Coaches cannot recognize their own negative behaviors, much less their efforts on players is perplexing (31).
(22) stated a coach is not just focused on developing and nurturing talent/skills and optimum physical performance of the athletes alone, but also considers his characteristics that could have positively or negatively affected his/her behavior towards coaching. Leadership is an important determinant of effective functioning for any sports organization or team (23). Success in sports coaching depends on the leadership styles 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 (17). Coaches need to be flexible in adapting their leadership style to meet specific leadership situations to ensure member satisfaction of the organization. Furthermore, (2) add the type of leadership behavior displayed by the coach will have a significant impact on both athletes and teams. This is because of the multiple role’s coaches play in providing instruction, guiding skill development, and offering performance feedback in their quest to achieve the objectives of the sport organization (34).
One of the most important aspects of the behavior style of leadership used by the coach is the athlete’s perception of the particular behavior style that is being used. (32) proposed that coaching effectiveness is mediated by athletes’ perception and recall. Overt coaching behaviors are perceived and given meaning by each athlete resulting in an attitude toward both the coach and the sport experience. Similarly, (29) has suggested that an individual’s perception of another’s behavior is more important than the behavior itself in determining one’s feelings or actions toward the other person.
The importance of a middle school athletic program should be to develop athletes regardless of athletic ability, ethnicity or parental influence in the community in the proficient technical and tactical skills required for the sport they are participating in followed by teamwork, goal setting, mental preparation, and a basic understanding of the rules. Athletes who perceive their coaches as not taking the time or the patience to develop these skills will lack the motivation and satisfaction to continue participating in the athletic program. Coaches need to understand one of the main reason athletes participate in sports at any level, and especially at the middle school level, is for the enjoyment of the sport. This supports studies by (1), which state satisfaction is an essential portion of enjoyment in sports participation. Without satisfaction, athletes would have an urge to find other sources of potential enjoyment (21).
The purpose of this study was to determine male athlete’s perception of the behavior style of leadership used by coaches in middle school athletic programs. The average score of these perceptions can be conceived of as the actual behavior of the coach towards athletes and the team. According to (30), the actual behavior of the coach is believed to be affected directly by the coach’s personal characteristics including age, gender, personality, ability, and experience as well as being dictated by the situation demands.
Participants consisted of 170 – 8th-grade male athletes from various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds between the ages of 13 and 15 from three different middle schools. Subjects were selected for this study based on their participation in team sports during their 7th and 8th-grade year at the same middle school.
The Leadership Scale for Sports (9,11,12) has been used to assess leadership behavior used by coaches in a variety of contexts. This study will use the athlete’s perception version of their coach’s behavior style of leadership and consists of 40 items that are divided into 5 subscales that all begin with “My Coach.” These forty items represent five dimensions of leadership behavior in sports and operationally defined in (12). The scoring of the Leadership Scale of Sports questionnaire was based on an ordinal scale, a 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 autocratic behavior, which covers five items covering coaching behavior involving independence in decision-making and stresses personal authority; using commands, threats and punishment as way to motivate individuals, democratic behavior, which covers nine items covering coaching behavior, which allows greater athletes participation in decisions pertaining to group goals, practice methods, game tactics and strategies, positive feedback behavior, which covers five items covering coaching behavior that reinforces athletes by recognizing and rewarding good performance and behavior, social support behavior, which covers eight items covering coaching behavior focusing on the welfare of individual athletes, positive group atmosphere, and interpersonal relations with members, training and instruction, which covers thirteen items covering coaching behavior geared towards improving the athlete performance by emphasizing instructions and structuring and coordinating the athlete’s activities.
Questionnaires were filled out in the cafeteria during the athletic period to ensure a quiet environment, so subjects could concentrate. Athletic coordinators at each middle read the instructions and answered any questions prior to administering the questionnaire. Subjects were instructed not to put their names on the questionnaire. To maintain interrater reliability, athletic coordinators were instructed before the administration of the questionnaire to refrain from aiding or influencing athletes in their response to the questions.
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 Friedman test is a test used for the 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. To determine the location of the difference, a series of Wilcoxon signed-ranks tests using the Bonferroni adjustment to the p-value was 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. The data collected for this study was used to compare male student-athletes at the three respective middle schools.
The results of the Friedman Test show there was a statistically significant difference in at least one of the five leadership scale of sports dimensions of leadership behavior.
Table 1: Mean Scores Males Behavior Styles of Leadership
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. To determine the exact difference in the LSS dimensions among males at the three middle schools for this study, 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 Comparison of Behavior Styles of Leadership
Test Statistics (c)
|Democratic – TrainInstr||Autocratic – TrainInstr||SocialSup – TrainInstr||PosFeed – TrainInstr|
|Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed)||.000||.000||.000||.627|
|Autocratic – Democratic||SocialSup – Democratic||PosFeed – Democratic|
|Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed)||.071||.007||.000|
|SocialSup – Autocratic||PosFeed – Autocratic||PosFeed – SocialSup|
|Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed)||.683||.000||.000|
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 we see that there is statistically significant difference at the 0.005 level between democratic, training instruction, autocratic, training instruction, social support, training instruction, positive feedback, democratic behavior, positive feedback, autocratic behavior, and positive feedback, social support.
This study investigated male athletes’ perception of the behavior style of leadership used by coaches in the daily treatment and interactions with their athletes. The perception of the behavior style of leadership used by coaches could have a positive or negative influence on the athlete and team cohesion, which could influence athletes to drop out of the athletic program.
Table 1 displays the mean rank scores of leadership behavior based on male athletes’ perception. The results of this data reveal training and instruction has the lowest mean score among the five dimensions of leadership with a 1.89. This purpose of this study will be to examine the statistically significant difference between the dimensions of leadership associated with the lowest ranked behavior style of leadership training and instruction based on male Athlete’s perceptions of leadership democratic, training instruction, autocratic, training instruction, and (6social support, training instruction.
The first statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of democratic and training instruction (see Table 2). Table 1 reveals a mean score of 3.93 for democratic and 1.89 for training and instruction. Democratic behavior covered nine items on the questionnaire and is a coaching behavior that allows greater athletes participation in decisions pertaining to group goals, practice methods, game tactics, and strategies. Training and instruction covered thirteen items on the questionnaire and is a coaching behavior geared towards improving the athlete’s performance by emphasizing instructions and structuring and coordinating the athlete’s activities. The data clearly coaches at the respective schools for this study place more emphasis in the democratic behavior style of leadership compared to training and instruction.
The second statistically significant difference occurred between the dimensions of autocratic and training instruction (see Table 2). Table 1 reveals a mean score of 3.65 for autocratic and 1.89 for training and instruction. Autocratic covers five items covering coaching behavior involving independence in decision-making and stresses personal authority, using commands, threats, and punishment as a way to motivate individuals. Training and instruction covered thirteen items on the questionnaire and is a coaching behavior geared towards improving the athlete’s performance by emphasizing instructions and structuring and coordinating the athlete’s activities. The data reveals that coaches at the respective schools for this study place more emphasis in the autocratic behavior style of leadership compared to training and instruction.
The third statistically significant difference between males at the respective middle schools occurred between the dimensions of social support and training and instruction (see Table 2). Coaches at three middle schools for this study had a mean score of 3.59 for social support and a mean score of 1.89 for training instruction behavior styles of leadership (see Table 1). The data clearly reveals coaches at the three respective middle schools for this study place more emphasis in the social support behavior style of leadership which stresses the importance of the welfare of individual athletes, positive group atmosphere, and interpersonal relations, compared to the training and instruction behavior of leadership, which is geared towards improving the athlete performance by emphasizing instructions and structuring and coordinating the athlete’s activities.
The Leadership Scale for Sports was developed by (11) to measure coaches’ behavior and leadership exhibited by the coach. A coach’s behavior and leadership style can be attributed to their age, gender, personality, ability, experience, and their psychological development. The results of the data show coaches place a strong emphasis on the following behavior styles of leadership democratic 3.93 and autocratic 3.65, which measure a coach’s decision-making ability. Social support 3.59 and positive feedback 1.94, which measure a Coach’s motivational tendencies and training and instruction 1.89, which measure a Coach’s instructional behavior. The results of this study clearly show coaches at the middle schools for this study place less emphasis in training and instruction behavior style of leadership.
Previous studies agree with the democratic, autocratic, and social support behavior styles of leadership are significant for the success of an athletic program if used appropriately by the coach; however, these behavior styles of leadership do not develop the technical and tactical skills required to improves one’s current athletic development and skills essential to be a successful athlete. Athletes participating in middle school athletic programs are eager to learn and improve upon their skills, which is one of the main factors of why students choose to participate in sports. The low mean score for the training and instruction behavior style of leadership can be attributed to several factors. First, middle school athletic programs are feeder schools into high school athletic programs that the athlete will be attending. Middle school coaches receive explicit instructions from the head high school coach for their respective sport in the best way to train middle school athletes. The issue arises when attempting to train middle school athletes as if they were high school ready. Therein lies the issue and challenge of training athletes that are not prepared either due to age, maturity, and receptiveness to the instructional style of coaching. As such, the attention is directed to genetically gifted athletes with the training age and maturity who can successfully perform the technical and tactical skills for the sport in practice and games. Yet, athletes who lack the training age and maturity will not receive the same amount of instruction or practice time by the coach, which results in underdeveloped athletes.
Moreover, coaches at the middle school level have differing work schedule expectations than their respective counterparts at the high school. Middle School educators/coaches typically have a full schedule as it pertains to teaching versus athletic periods, making it difficult to devote time to strictly coaching. High School educators have fewer instructional classes and more athletic periods, which allows for a more specialized quality of instruction to each individual athlete. Finally, the athlete to coach ratio is exceedingly high, which makes it almost impossible to coach every athlete in practice. Coaches in most settings must complete a variety of tasks such as planning practices and game strategies, organizational tasks and mentoring athletes which does include more than teaching fundamental skills and tactics (3,14,15,24,26,36).
According to (7,12), training and instruction leader behavior is perhaps the most essential function of coach, improving the performance level of student-athletes. These behaviors center on the physical improvement of student-athletes through instruction in skills, techniques, and tactics of the particular sport. Numerous investigations found evidence that coaches leadership behaviors towards training and instruction, positive feedback, and social support significantly correlated with athletes’ satisfaction (29,22).
APPLICATIONS IN SPORT
The success of any professional, collegiate, and high school athletic programs begins at the middle school level. Building a foundation at this level ensures not only the stability of a great program, but success for all students as it pertains to teamwork, motor development, and perseverance. For most athletes, this will be the first time they encounter a coach that will employ a negative or positive behavior style of leadership, and in most cases, the behavior style of leadership utilized is a reflection of the culture of the athletic program. Leaders in the schools, such as Athletic directors, should provide adequate and mandatory training regarding the behavior styles of leadership discussed in this study for all coaches at the outset of the season. A strict monitoring system should also be utilized by Athletic directors that allow supervisors to observe their coaches during practices and games that will, in turn, ensure the correct behavior style of leadership is being used in varied situations. Consistency is of the utmost importance. It is the intent of this study that coaches who interact with students and athletes reflect upon the data provided; and, in turn, trial practices that give way to a better utilization of the behavior styles of leadership. Doing so will increase their success with regard to interacting and treatment of athletes. Researchers should pursue additional studies on this topic, and coaches should investigate this and similar studies to improve their interaction with athletes in middle school athletic programs.
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