Decision Style Choices of High School Basketball Coaches: The Effects of Situational and Coach Characteristics

Article excerpt

Leadership defined as "the process of influencing the activities of an organized group toward goal setting and goal achievement" (Stogdill, 1950; p. 4) is one of the most important factors in determining the success and survival of groups and organizations. The importance of leadership to athletic teams is highlighted by past research on coaching in general (e.g., Massengale, 1975; Sabock, 1979; Singer, 1972); coaches' personality (e.g., Hendry, 1974); coaches' behaviors (e.g., Chelladurai, 1984; Chelladurai and Carron, 1981; Chelladurai and Saleh, 1980; Smith and Smoll, 1990; Smoll and Smith, 1989; Westre & Weiss, 1991); coaches' style of decision making (e.g., Chelladurai and Arnott, 1985; Chelladurai, Haggerty, and Baxter, 1989; Gordon, 1986); and so on. The present study was yet another effort to understand the dynamics of coaching with specific reference to decision making.

Decision making consists of two different processes - cognitive and social. The cognitive process is concerned with the rationality of the decisions. The concern here is with defining the problem clearly, identifying relevant constraints, generating and evaluating the alternative courses of action, and selecting the best alternative to achieve a desired end. The social process of decision making refers to the extent to which the leader or coach allows his/her members to participate in the cognitive process of making a decision. Such member participation may indeed increase the rationality of the decisions because of the higher levels of information, ingenuity and creativity available in the group. In addition, member participation may also lead to a better comprehension of the decision and greater acceptance of the decision, and therefore to more efficient execution of the decision. From a humanistic perspective, participative decision making is said to enhance the feelings of self-worth and self-confidence among members and their personal growth. These purported beneficial effects for members have led several theorists to advocate increased participation by members.

However, it has been noted that the foregoing advantages may be offset by the situational exigencies. Therefore, the extent to which the leader allows member participation must be varied according to the content and context of the problem including the characteristics of the members and the group. In fact, a number of authors have identified different contingency factors that must be considered in determining the extent of member participation in decision making (e.g., Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1973; Vroom and Yetton, 1973). The most comprehensive of these efforts is the model proposed by Vroom and his colleagues (Vroom & Jago, 1978; Vroom and Yetton, 1973). The basic assumption in their model is that the extent of member participation in any given problem is dependent upon the attributes of the problem. After identifying eight attributes which are present in varying degrees in all decision making situations, Vroom and Yetton presented the various configurations of the eight problem attributes and their prescribed decision style(s) in the form of a decision tree. The eight problem attributes were listed as questions on the top of the decision tree. By tracing the absence or presence of each of the attributes listed at the top of the figure, a user would reach a particular terminal node and the appropriate decision style(s). Their research has shown that the attributes of a given problem have three times as much influence on leaders' decision style choices as individual differences.

Chelladurai and Haggerty (1978) modified the Vroom and Yetton model for application in the athletic context. The seven problem attributes included were quality requirement (requirement for a high quality decision), coaches' information (coach's information relative to players' information on the problem), problem complexity (the number of factors and steps involved in solving the problem), acceptance requirement (requirement that the decision be accepted by members for effective execution), team integration (extent to which the members are integrated into a cohesive unit), time pressure (whether a decision needs to be made in a short time), and coaches' power position (the extent to which the coach has the power to influence members). …