Preferred Leadership of NCAA Division I and II Intercollegiate Student-Athletes

Article excerpt

What type of leadership behaviors do student-athletes prefer from their coaches? Do the characteristics of gender, competition level, or type of sport influence student-athlete behavior preferences? While these or similar questions are frequently discussed in sport leadership, for the most part, they remain unanswered (Case, 1987). The lack of answers to these questions results from the complexity inherent in the questions and the fact that attempts to answer them have been sporadic and often peripheral (Chelladurai, 1984).

Investigations focusing on student-athlete preferences for coaching behavior may yield as much information about effective coaching as that gained from coaches themselves. Researchers examining student-athletes have revealed significant differences in behavior preferences based on variables such as gender and the type of sport the student-athlete is participating in. These findings have contributed to the understanding of the sport leadership dyad of the coach and student-athlete but have not provided conclusive answers. It appears the amount of research devoted to sport leadership does not correspond with the growth of the sport environment.

Building on the previous research and models used in studying sport leadership (Fielder, 1967; Hersey & Blanchard, 1977; House, 1971; Osborne & Hunt, 1975), Chelladurai (1979, 1990) has suggested that a multidimensional model provides a more robust explanation of effective coaching. In his model, Chelladurai proposed that there are different dimensions to coaching behavior and three different states of coaching behavior which must be considered. He delineated the three different states of coaching behavior as (a) actual leader behaviors, (b) required leader behaviors, and (c) leader behaviors preferred by the student-athlete. The basic tenet of the model is that student-athlete performance and satisfaction are functions of the congruence between actual and required behaviors and the leader behaviors preferred by the student-athlete. Chelladurai (1979, 1990) further suggested that various antecedents, which may influence the behaviors, include situational, leader, and member characteristics

Past applications of the multidimensional model of leadership and its associated scales to the intercollegiate setting have yielded some interesting but incomplete results. These results have demonstrated differences in behavior preferences based on student-athletes' gender and type of sport. However, the relationship between preferred leadership behavior and competition level has to date received limited investigation.

During their revision of the Leadership Scale for Sport (Chelladurai & Saleh, 1980), Zhang, Jensen, and Mann (1997) noted that there had been little to no research on differences in preferred leadership behaviors of student-athletes that may be attributable to competition level. These researchers point to the need to study this variable with particular attention given to NCAA student-athletes. This study attempted to address this need.

The purpose of this present study was to examine the differences in behavior preferences using the conceptual framework of the multidimensional model of leadership to confirm and extend past investigations. In particular, the purpose was to investigate differences among student-athletes' preferred leadership behavior for their coaches based on gender of the student-athletes, and the competition levels, task dependence, and task variability of the sports in which they were engaged. The student-athletes expressed their preferences using the Revised Leadership Scale for Sport (Zhang et al., 1997).

First, it was hypothesized that differences in behavior preferences related to gender would be likely to occur. This was based on Chelladurai's (1980) suggestion that preferred leader behavior was influenced by member characteristics. Second, it was hypothesized that NCAA Division I and Division II student-athletes' leader behavior preferences would differ. …