Leadership Education: Physical Activity and the Affective Domain

By Gerdes, Daniel A. | Physical Educator, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Leadership Education: Physical Activity and the Affective Domain


Gerdes, Daniel A., Physical Educator


Abstract

The purpose of the present article was to introduce scholarly discourse that examined physical activity as a means to facilitate leadership education and training. While the concepts of "leadership" and "character" have yet to be conclusively defined, there seems to be inherent linkage, particularly when discussed in the context of physical activity and athletics. An assumption was given that leaders can be made as evidenced in the longevity and arguable success of the leadership training programs at United States military academies. The model of West Point is briefly addressed to give the reader a contextual point of reference as to the dynamic relationship and interaction between character development, physical activity, and leadership preparation.

Issues relating to ethics and morality continue to be prevalent in education as well as in society in general. The extent to which ethics and behaviors are blended together to form "leaders" continues to intrigue social scientists, psychologists, educators, and philosophers. The claim that physical education teaches the "whole" child, creating opportunities in cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains, continues to be one that is exciting as well as problematic for physical educators and behavioral scientists alike. For all the movement skills developed, in addition to the generally assertive nature of physical activity, developmental growth in the affective domain seems somehow more ambiguous and elusive.

Leadership behaviors and attitudes seem to represent a unique manifestation of the "whole-person" approach espoused by many physical educators; leadership seems to blend behaviors, beliefs, and emotions in a curious way. According to Stoll and Belier (1998),

   "In studying the development of professional ethics and morality in sport
   and competition, we have found some common themes emerging. When discussing
   the importance of ethics, whether the population is sport professionals,
   physical educators, lawyers, business individuals, or military people, most
   professionals would state that: 1) the problems in America today stem from
   a lack of morality and ethics, 2) morality is important, 3) one should
   practice ethics, 4) they believe themselves to be basically ethical and
   moral, 5) most of them teach or model good character, and 6) the dominant
   moral value for most groups is loyalty--not justice, honesty, respect, or
   responsibility." (p.5)

The purpose of the present article is to introduce scholarly discourse that examines physical activity as a means to facilitate leadership education. In addition, discussion will be presented about an association between effective moral (character) development and the essence of leadership training and development. While the author recognizes distinct ambiguities associated with these concepts and their definitions, an assumption was made that "teacher" and "coach" and "leader", in their ideal forms, connote the same phenomenological meaning. Even though many of the illustrations noted within pertain to the athletic and physical activity model, the permeating theme is that character and leadership can be developed and leaders can therefore be made.

   To begin, character has been defined as, "the possession of those personal
   qualities or virtues that facilitate the consistent display of moral
   actions. Accordingly, we describe character in terms of four virtues ...
   compassion, fairness, sportspersonship, and integrity." (Shields and
   Bredemeier, 1995, p. 192)

According to Weinberg and Gould (1995), character development could be viewed as a component of moral development which excludes any religious connotations. Indeed, cultures around the world, presumably of different religious orientations, espouse basic moral principles which deem behaviors such as lying, cheating, or stealing as inappropriate.

Because physical education presents a prime setting for promoting character development (Giebink & McKenzie, 1985; Gibbons, Ebbeck, & Weiss, 1995; Miller, Bredemeier, & Shields, 1997; Solomon, 1997), perhaps physical education may be a viable means to address issues concerning leader development and associated leadership activities. …

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