Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Inconvenient Truth in Coaching: Student-Athletes Perceive Coaches Lower on Altruistic Leadership

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Inconvenient Truth in Coaching: Student-Athletes Perceive Coaches Lower on Altruistic Leadership

Article excerpt


The underlying motivation of leaders is under inquiry. A dominant public perception in both business and sports is that leaders are motivated primarily by selfish goals rather than social responsibility. This perception also exists of Division I intercollegiate coaches. Intercollegiate coaches influence approximately 360,000 student-athletes per year (NCAA, 2009). Given this impact, the motivation of intercollegiate coaches is an important issue for both sport managers and researchers to consider. Topics such as low student-athlete graduation rates (Yasuda, 2005) and the high number of intercollegiate mle violations (Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, 1991; NCAA News, 2005) have stimulated concern regarding intercollegiate coaches' motivation for their student- athletes. However, it is also important not to neglect a positive view of coaches' motivation. Coaches often provide positive experiences for their student-athletes. The positive motivation of altruism as related to leadership has received little attention in sport literature. Altruism, defined as a motivational state with the ultimate goal of improving another's well being (Batson, 1991), has mostly been connected to sportsmanship, volunteerism, and organizational citizenship in sport. For example, Arnold (2003) described altruism as a perspective on sportsmanship.

Altruism was one of three approaches that Arnold chose for attempting to understand reasons for sportsmanship. The author chose altruism as the closest in meaning to sportsmanship versus group mores or promotion of pleasure. As an example in volunteerism, Coleman (2002) investigated characteristics of 151 managers from 35 volunteer county cricket associations in the United Kingdom. The findings indicated that both altruism and self-interest motivate managers to volunteer. In relation to altruism as a dimension of organizational citizenship, Han, Hsiao, Pyun, Kent, and James (2005) tested the reliability and validity of the multi-dimensional model of organizational citizenship behavior. The findings confirmed altruism as a dimension of organizational citizenship behavior. In turn, organizational citizenship behavior has been supported as a positive influence on organizational effectiveness (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, and Bachrach, 2000). Thus, altruism has been scholarly connected to positive aspects of sport but has not been connected to the motives of sport leaders.

There is a substantial body of empirical literature in sport on leadership and the impact on athletes (e.g. Beam, Serwatka, and Wilson, 2004; Chelladurai, 1984; Dwyer and Fischer, 1990; Home and Carrón, 1985; Riemer and Chelladurai, 1995; Schliesman, 1987; Serpa, Pataco, and Santos, 1991; Weiss and Friedriches, 1986). The main focus group of many of these leadership studies is intercollegiate coaches. Much research has been conducted on intercollegiate coaches' behaviors and the impact on athlete satisfaction (e.g. Amrose and Horn, 2000; Black and Weiss, 1992), but few studies have examined the psychological motivation of intercollegiate coaches themselves. The motivation as separate from behavior may also impact satisfaction and other dimensions of organizational effectiveness in a unique way.

Thus, there is evidence from the scholarly sport literature that few studies exist on the motivation of intercollegiate coaches. The purpose of this study was to adapt a scale to measure altruistic motivation of leaders. The development of a scale to measure altruistic leadership in sport was one of the primary objectives of this study. An additional research questions posed included: Is there a significant difference between the sport leaders' and team members' perceptions of the sport leaders' altruistic leadership?

The need for the study is supported by the scarcity of previous work on altruistic sport leadership and the potential positive impact of this topic in sport organizations. …

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