Running Head: ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP
A Look at Athletic Leadership
Christopher W. Hodges
December 14, 2014
Submitted to the faculty of
In partial fulfillment of the requirements of
OLCU 487: Senior Research Project
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Leadership is a key concept in any organization. The needs for effective leaders stretches
across organizations of varying size, mission, vision and field. Much like large, multi-
national organizations, small but important organizations need and will continue to need
experienced and dedicated leaders who want to aid in the development of young people
through sports. For many youth athletes, their first involvement of leadership, positive or
negative, may come from coaches, team leaders or other sport administrators. For the
betterment of future generations and continued development of those leading these future
leaders, leadership training for sport organization administrators is vital. Some coaches
and those in comparable positions may be dedicated, but many may lack the experience
needed to best manage the unique expectations involved in sport.
Circumstances may arise that sport leaders may not be trained or experienced to handle.
Leadership training may be necessary to help mitigate or resolve these difficult situations.
Certain questions must be asked if these issues are to be presented and remedied to assist
in the development of leaders and young athletes. Questions such as: What and where are
the discrepancies in current leadership training within certain youth sports organizations?
Are there new and improved leadership theories and principles available that can be
implemented to better support the organization and its leaders? The subsequent review of
literature will contest the fact of how important youth sports are to the development of
young people as well as emphasizing the need for qualified leaders to direct future
leaders. Analysis, integration and application of newly learned and proven philosophies
can promote the progress and growth of leaders of varying ages and ability levels.
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Table of Contents
The Issue: Athletic Leadership Training………………………………………………... 4
Research Purpose and Questions: ………………………………………………………. 4
Review of the Literature: ………………………………………………………………... 5
Research Question One: Leadership Discrepancies……………………………... 5
Coaching Duties, Responsibilities and Tasks…………………………… 5
Leadership Inconsistencies……………………………………………… 6
Need for Training, Efficiency in Development…………………………. 7
Research Question Two: Athletic Leadership Principles……………………….. 8
Athletic Leadership is Diverse and Meaningful………………………… 8
Sporting Guidance is Integral to Youth Development………………….. 9
Conclusions and Recommendations: ……………………………………………………10
Recommended Action Plan: …………………………………………………… 11
Organizational Thoughts for Action……………………………………. 11
Mandated Training Strategies…………………………………………... 12
References: …………………………………………………………………………….. 14
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Coaches may play a pivotal role in the lives of young people. Ensuring that
coaches are appropriately trained and educated on certain leadership principles is
imperative to continued athletic and social success. After all, the athletic, personal and
psychosocial development of young athletes is largely contingent on the meaningful and
productive experiences that these youth sports enthusiasts have. During their
impressionable and formative years, these children are enrolled in various athletic
domains to cultivate friendship, develop socially and unique athletic interests. The
leadership needs for each sport tend to vary. However, certain methods and approaches
may be implemented at all levels in order to create a semi-standardized approach to youth
ResearchPurpose and Questions
The purpose of the research is to explain the need for leadership training and
continuing education for youth sports’ coaches and trainers. The need for quality
leadership training is essential in developing not only young athletes but also youthful
upstanding citizens and successively, future community leaders. The need for optimism
and achievement is apparent. However, undeniable questions must be asked and inquires
must be answered about current leadership practices. For this analysis, the questions
1) Why is there need and where are the discrepancies in current leadership
training within certain youth sports organizations?
2) Are there novel, established or developing leadership theories and principles
that can be implemented to better support the organization and its leaders?
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Why is there a need and where are the discrepancies in current leadership within
youth sports organizations?
Coaching Duties, Responsibilities and Tasks
Youth sports organizations are faced with an arduous task. Millions of young
people enroll in numerous competitive sports and other recreational activities throughout
their childhood. While there are certain clubs and groups that make leadership training a
priority, there are certainly some instances, where there are organizational leaders who
have inconsequential amounts of training relating to young people and the potentially
sensitive issues these young people and their families may present. How can sports
leaders assist in the development of their charges if the coaches and team administrators
have little to no effective training themselves? Baseball, basketball, football and soccer
teams, among others, are amongst these establishments that may need adequate training.
Holt, Tink, Mandingo and Fox (2008) stress the importance of developing youth through
Indeed, modern conceptualizations of Positive Youth Development (PYD) are
historically grounded in an ecological systems perspective. Briefly, proponents of
PYD view adolescents as having the potential for positive developmental change,
regarding youth as resources to be developed rather than problems to be solved
(e.g., Lerner, 2005). Thus, researchers can examine how people engage in various
contexts to gain a better understanding of how to promote positive development.
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Nonetheless, there is sufficient substantiation that he immersion of youth in sport has led
to the inculcation of conscientious social actions. Sports have often been mentioned as
the channel that delivered the contact that has been proven so indispensable between
rebellious youth and particularly instrumental individuals. Sport has been attributed with
providing a sense of association, a sentiment of self-assurance in one's objective
capacities, an appreciation of one's respective healthiness and aptness and the expansion
of communal bonds with individuals and organizations (Seefeldt, 1993). Paralleled and
collaborated with the importance of youth development is the need for leadership training
and putting the training and ongoing development into thorough practice and into a
In many sports organizations, little to no training is mandated or in some cases,
made available to current or would be coaches, administrators or team leaders. Although
there is definitely training respective to the sport itself, there is unlikely even minimal
training associated with concrete leadership theory and maintainable youth development.
Usually, training is considered negligible and not considerably comprehensive.
Sometimes, courses range from a couple of hours to an entire weekend. Rickabaugh
(2009) writes: “With over 38 million U.S. youth (54% of children between ages 6 to 17)
participating in organized sports each year, there is an ever increasing demand for entry-
level youth sport leaders (Kassing et al., 2004; Seefeldt and Ewing, 1996)” (p. 13). To
meet this leadership demand in organized youth sports, over 2.5 million adults volunteer
to coach, yet less than 10% of these individuals have any formal coaching education
(Seefeldt and Ewing, 1996). Due to no fault of their own, coaches may be sometimes
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faced with elusive and complex situations that they may have little to no experience in
resolving. Sometimes these circumstances do not revolve around sport, but they could
relate to greater, more thoughtful psychosocial or personal issues.
Need for Training, Efficiency in Development
Coaches and team administrators must be able to take a valiant look at the
ongoing and increasingly challenging issue of the development of young athletes both
personally, socially and athletically. Children in this day and age are less active than they
have been in decades. But, coaches, administrators and parents, serving as significant role
models must also understand that they are dealing with children, supremely athletically
gifted or not. Assessors suppose that parents and adolescence athletics coaches
sometimes evade suggestion with the fact that young athletes, even excellent adolescent
players, are children. Though the sports, competitive by nature, coaches are still dealing
with those who have youthful and underdeveloped minds. Cognitive abilities of children
must also be given meticulous and methodical consideration. The youth sports
commitment should be devised in such a way as to postulate children with the
experiences they want, need and deserve. Since parents and other adults form, fund and
implement youth sport agendas, overseers need to guarantee that adult expectancies,
unsuitable behaviors and achievement criteria are not imposed on young athletes (Pugh,
Wolff, DeFrancesco, Gilley & Heltman, 2000). This can lead to unremitting
complications such as: academic, physical, social and other unfledged development
hindrances. Leaders who understand and are at least minimally trained in these issues can
help circumvent these societal concerns by bestowing their positive practices on to young
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Breedy (2007) writes:
Due to changing family patterns and lack of educational opportunities, too many
children fail to develop the necessary life skills to live healthy and safe lives.
Children who do not learn these life skills before high school are at increasing risk
of lives with little hope. Unfortunately, the children most in need are the ones who
are most underserved due to changing family work patterns, transportation
constraints, and economics. (para. 10).
With any incongruity, there needs to be a solution. That solution may be cast from the
likes of consequential (both positive and negative) experiences, through professionally
driven leadership training or sport related service programs that put the responsibility in
the hands of all concerned.
Are there novel, established or developing leadership theories and principles that can be
implemented to better support the organization and its leaders?
Athletic Leadership is Diverse and Meaningful
The implementation of new practices could alleviate some of the stresses that
novice sport leaders may face. Sport leadership is different from that of traditional
organizational leadership. The coach must accomplish tasks, develop relationships, direct
diverse groups of parents and players and also manage expectation and ego. Coaches
must make better use of expertise from the instructional domain; nonetheless, there is
supplementary acknowledgment that making use of other domains of expertise, such as
counseling or conflict management, may also enable coaches to create effective working
relationships (Abraham & Collins, 2011). The utilization of specific teaching and
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coaching techniques can and will be useful to help coaches refine their craft but also
instill confidence and leadership principles in their adolescent protégés. Particularly, in
some high-risk areas, sports play a pivotal role in socializing young people who may
other wise be considered social outcasts. Offering such sporting prospects for youth who
have fallen out of society and have been indicated as not being participatory in other
forms of community activity are viewed to be of even more value for them
(Haudenhuyse, Theeboom & Coalter, 2012). Furthermore, concerning susceptible
collections of young, researchers have found, “In a British cohort study, Feinstein et al.
(2005) have found that for vulnerable groups sports club attendance at age 16 years
reduced the chances of social exclusion outcomes during adulthood (age 30 years)”
(Haudenhuyse et al, 2012, para. 1). Studies such as this show the need for young people
to be led effectively, professionally and with the future and “bigger picture” at the
forefront of combined efforts. Experienced coaches and leadership professionals who are
passionate about community development, social success through athletics and producing
a well-rounded group of future leaders must take heed and establish thorough leadership
practices that will allow for these principles to come to fruition.
Sporting Guidance is Integral to Youth Development
Naturally, young athletes who play competitive sports may be under relatively
high amounts of psychological pressure to perform optimally. Subsequently, coaches
must be versed in methods to enhance conceptual resilience and mitigate excessive
anxiety. Mental toughness has been defined as one of the most expended but least
comprehended expressions in athletic psychology (Bell, Hardy & Beattie, 2013). Youth
sports organizations that are in their infancy can adopt best practices and leadership
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models from sister organizations that have found success. Certain professional
organizations have youth academies or programs that have the same mission and vision
as their parent companies. Small, private organizations may adopt a similar style in order
to better leader performance. Rickabaugh (2009) found that:
In order to take advantage of this educational opportunity, undergraduate sport
science programs must develop early learning strategies that, (a) develop a sound
initial philosophy for youth sport leadership, and (b) promote a realistic
understanding of the professional demands of youth sport leadership. (p. 14).
This ideal implies that sport organizations are in need of a youth sports leadership
methodology to better prepare coaches and sport administrators as well as continuously
develop young athletes.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Leadership is an important concept to cultivate, especially for youth, adolescents
and those entering emerging adulthood. In order for young people to eventually become
successful leaders, their prominent leaders must also be able to set the obligatory standard
and put the best foot forward. Coaches face difficult times as they train young athletes to
be prepared for athletic competition and other societal anxieties. Many people get their
start in leadership from their experiences with sport, teams and subsequently, influential
coaches. Haughey (1999) writing about service learning and athletic leadership states:
Whether your student athletes are in middle school, high school, or
college, leadership abilities that can be used off the field will be a major
long-term benefit of their team experience. Build on the natural foundation
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that being on an athletic team provides by incorporating service learning
and planed leadership development into your team program. (p. 36).
Taking these actions a step further can lead to a better-developed and intelligent athlete
and coach. It is important for practitioners and researchers to understand that coaches will
never deal solely with athletic issues. Coaches and sport leaders must know how to tend
to these various tasks. Relationships must be established with parents, peers and the
players themselves. The sophistication of these associations will be assurance of
optimally performing leaders, organizations and team members. However, special
consideration should be given to the organizations and its leaders who are already
implementing similar practices as have been stated above. But, even if there are control
measures in place to ensure leadership consistency, there is always room for subsequent
improvement. In theory, these ideals may work well. Nevertheless, it is also the duty and
responsibility of administrators, coaches and parents to do their due diligence in order to
ensure that the children participating in these various athletic fields are receiving
adequate and sustained guidance.
Recommended Action Plan
Organizational Thoughts for Action
Organizations have the rights and abilities to be selective in their hiring processes.
Hiring only those with significant experience, education and training could allow for
higher rates of success. Beginner coaches and trainers can also be put through a
harmonized probationary period in which they are under the tutelage of an experienced
practitioner. Governing authorities must implement and employ certain control measures
to ensure the facilitation of leadership. Primary leadership courses and continuing
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education credits can be used to guarantee continuity. Most youth sports clubs, leagues
and associations have large parent organization or governing bodies that have greater
reach and resources than that of smaller community-based models. Community-based
organizations can learn to first look to these larger organizations as a resource, rather than
someone or something that they must report to be governed by.
Mandated Training Strategies
These companies usually have an organizational framework that is similar to a
major corporation. These parent agencies are equipped with experienced coaches, board
of directors/trustees and something similar to a human resources department. These
governing bodies must make it necessary to implement operational leadership training
seminars and workshops and mandate to current and potential coaches. For example: a
youth soccer club has 10 coaches on staff. These coaches are of varying ages, ability
levels and socioeconomic backgrounds On the anniversary of their hire date or during an
appropriate time centered around the competitive season, the coaches must attend formal
leadership training or complete X number of hours of distance education applicable to
their respective sport. Though a frame of reference borrowed from elite collegiate
athletics, Clubb (2012) does well to sum up the genuine purpose of integrating sport and
overall youth development:
The university’s intercollegiate athletics strategic
plan identifies ways in which student-athletes can push themselves
academically, embrace the tenets of global-citizenship and develop
themselves as extraordinary leaders. (p. 42).
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The community-based organization can bring in specialist consultants, subject-matter
experts or provide someone organic to the organization itself who is trained and qualified
to lead discussion and facilitate action.
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under pressure in elite young cricketers: A 2-year longitudinal intervention.
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