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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Successful Leadership Behavior of Collegiate Coaches and Athletic Performance


What type of leadership behaviors do student-athletes prefer from university coaches? Do characteristics like gender, competition levels, or types of sport influence tae-kwon-do student-athlete behavior preferences? The lack of answers to these questions is due to the complexity inherent in the questions themselves. Past attempts to answer these questions have been sporadic and often peripheral (Chelladurai, 1984; Beam, Serwatka, & Wilson, 2004).

The most important function of a successful coach is to help athletes to improve their athletic skills in a wide range of tasks from the sequential developmental movements of a beginner, to the more specialized physical, technical, tactical and psychological preparation of an elite athlete (Martens, 1987; Bompa, 1983). Athletic skills develop when a coach engages in leadership behavior that effectively elicits appropriate actions from the athlete. The type of leadership behavior displayed by the coach can have a significant effect on the performance and psychological well being of the athlete (Horn, 1992). Consequently, effective coaching behavior varies across specific contexts as the characteristics of the athletes and the prescribed situations change (Chelladurai, 1978). The context of the sport situation and the characteristics of the coach and the athletes themselves can dictate appropriate leadership behavior.

Leadership Behavior and Performance

John, Dwger, & Douald (1998) discussed that wrestling coaches reported better performance from their athletes high while the coaches utilized positive feedback in training and response to instruction, a moderately democratic behavior and low autocratic behavior (Dwyer & Fisher, 1998). Horne & Carron (1995) found better performance while utilizing positive feedback in training and response to instruction, democratic behavior and low autocratic behavior in volleyball, basketball, track and field and swimming athletes. Chelladurai and Saleh (1978, 1980) showed the coaches’ perceptions of how they provided training and instruction were democratic and low autocratic in nature. Bennett & Maneral (1998) showed that elite youth baseball coaches got better performance from their athletes while utilizing high positive feedback in training and instruction and utilizing moderate democratic behavior and low autocratic behavior. Therefore, as we can gather from past research, coaches have reported placing more emphasis in positive feedback in training and instruction while expressing a lower preference for autocratic behavior. Further research on coaches from different sports is needed to provide a normative data base for the scale.


To achieve improvement in athletic performance, it may be necessary for a coach to engage in a variety of coaching behaviors to which all athletes may respond. Certain coaching behaviors may be more productive than others (Tinning, 1982). What may be an appropriate coaching behavior to one athlete may be an ineffective approach for another. While coaching team sports, coaches must take into consideration the different needs and preferences from individual athletes within the team and at the same time keep the team focused as one unit. The coach may adopt either a homogenous approach that tends to treat all athletes equally, or alternatively create a heterogeneous style that provides differential treatment to individual athletes. Consequently, it is important for the coach to be aware of the coaching preferences of his or her athletes in order to provide satisfactory experiences and improvement in athletic performance, yet at the same time have cohesiveness amongst the entire team.

An important and successful leadership factor for a coach is to utilize proper coaching behavior within training instruction that addresses all the individual athletes and at the same time maintain team cohesion. A prudent and intelligent coach will utilize leadership behavior that will help to improve the athlete’s performance (Bompa, 1983; Martens, 1987). The coach must utilize coaching behavior that will guide the athlete’s performance (Horn, 1992). Research has supported the notion that coaches’ leadership styles have a direct impact on team cohesion as well as on performance (Horne & Carron, 1985; Weiss & Friedrichs, 1986; Westre & Weiss, 1991; Yukelson, Weinberg & Jackson, 1984). Brawley (1990) commented that team cohesion is one of the most investigated group concepts in sport science. Team cohesion is critical to the success of the team (Anshell, 1990; Shield & Gardner, 1997). As a group’s cohesiveness grows stronger, the members’ adherence to the group goals becomes greater; thus the group can achieve more (Robbins,1997).


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