Coach's Leadership Behavior as a Predictor of Satisfaction with Leadership: Perceptions of Athletes with Physical Disabilities

Article excerpt

Introduction and Theoretical Framework

Leadership might be broadly defined as "the behavioral process of influencing individuals and groups toward set goals" (Barrow, 1977, p. 232). This definition contains many dimensions of leadership. With regard to sports and exercise, these dimensions include decision-making processes, motivational techniques, feedback, establishment of interpersonal relationships, and confidence in directing the team. Northouse (2001) stated that several components are central to leadership: (a) leadership is a process; (b) leadership involves influence, (c) leadership occurs within a group context, and (d) leadership involves goal achievement. Using these components, Northouse defined leadership as "a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal" (p.3).

Chelladurai (1978, 1990) developed a multidimensional model of sport leadership specifically for athletic situations. The leadership model conceptualizes leadership as an interactive process. That is, the leader's effectiveness depends on situational characteristics of both the leader and the group members. Thus, effective leadership can and will vary depending on the characteristics of the athletes and constraints of the situation. Dale and Weinberg (1989) stated that studies of leadership behavior and sport have investigated many factors, such as preferred behavior and experience, athletes' ability, team size, nature of the task, and sports played. Several authors (Carron, Hausenblas, & Eys, 2005; Kogler, 2001) indicated that leaders serve two important internal functions to the team: (a) task functions such as helping the group accomplish its task objectives, and (b) social functions, such as satisfying members' needs, which suggest that leaders can occupy a gradient of roles within a team.

Coaches who are good leaders provide visions of what to strive for, and give day-to-day structure, motivation, and support to transform visions into realities. Coaches seek to assure that each player maximizes their opportunity to achieve goals and ensure that players' successes assure team success. Great leaders also emerge in the settings of physical education, physical fitness, and athletic training. It is easy to think of people who are great leaders, but it is difficult to determine what makes them great leaders. Cote, Salmela, Trudel, Baria, and Russell (1995) investigated coaching behaviors using a qualitative interview approach. Participants were 17 elite gymnastic coaches who were interviewed to find out how they used their expert knowledge during training. The results showed that the most prevalent behaviors of coaches were: (a) providing a supportive environment through positive feedback; (b) giving technical instruction regarding gymnasts' progress; (c) teaching mental skills such as dealing with stress, developing proper motivation, and becoming self-sufficient; and (d) providing opportunities that simulated the mental and technical demands of competition. The results showed reliance on positive, supportive feedback and on technical, corrective feedback in helping athletes improve. The key to providing effective sport leadership is focusing on the positive while providing clear feedback and technical instruction, providing manual training to ensure safety; and stressing conditioning to ensure the physical readiness of the gymnast.

It has been shown that preferred coach leadership behavior relates to athletes' satisfaction (Chelladurai, 1984; & Schliesman, 1987). According to Chelladurai (1984), the inconsistencies in coaches' leadership behaviors toward athletes in various sports were associated with three measures of athlete satisfaction. These measures were: satisfaction with performance, satisfaction with leadership, and satisfaction with overall involvement. It was found that basketball players' inconsistent scores on all dimensions were significantly related to their satisfaction with leadership. …