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  1. 1. Running Head: ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP A Look at Athletic Leadership Christopher W. Hodges December 14, 2014 Submitted to the faculty of Brandman University In partial fulfillment of the requirements of OLCU 487: Senior Research Project
  2. 2. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 2 Abstract Leadership is a key concept in any organization. The needs for effective leaders stretches across organizations of varying size, mission, vision and field. Much like large, multi- national organizations, small but important organizations need and will continue to need experienced and dedicated leaders who want to aid in the development of young people through sports. For many youth athletes, their first involvement of leadership, positive or negative, may come from coaches, team leaders or other sport administrators. For the betterment of future generations and continued development of those leading these future leaders, leadership training for sport organization administrators is vital. Some coaches and those in comparable positions may be dedicated, but many may lack the experience needed to best manage the unique expectations involved in sport. Circumstances may arise that sport leaders may not be trained or experienced to handle. Leadership training may be necessary to help mitigate or resolve these difficult situations. Certain questions must be asked if these issues are to be presented and remedied to assist in the development of leaders and young athletes. Questions such as: What and where are the discrepancies in current leadership training within certain youth sports organizations? Are there new and improved leadership theories and principles available that can be implemented to better support the organization and its leaders? The subsequent review of literature will contest the fact of how important youth sports are to the development of young people as well as emphasizing the need for qualified leaders to direct future leaders. Analysis, integration and application of newly learned and proven philosophies can promote the progress and growth of leaders of varying ages and ability levels.
  3. 3. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 3 Table of Contents The Issue: Athletic Leadership Training………………………………………………... 4 Research Purpose and Questions: ………………………………………………………. 4 Review of the Literature: ………………………………………………………………... 5 Research Question One: Leadership Discrepancies……………………………... 5 Coaching Duties, Responsibilities and Tasks…………………………… 5 Leadership Inconsistencies……………………………………………… 6 Need for Training, Efficiency in Development…………………………. 7 Research Question Two: Athletic Leadership Principles……………………….. 8 Athletic Leadership is Diverse and Meaningful………………………… 8 Sporting Guidance is Integral to Youth Development………………….. 9 Conclusions and Recommendations: ……………………………………………………10 Recommended Action Plan: …………………………………………………… 11 Organizational Thoughts for Action……………………………………. 11 Mandated Training Strategies…………………………………………... 12 References: …………………………………………………………………………….. 14
  4. 4. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 4 ResearchIssue Coaches may play a pivotal role in the lives of young people. Ensuring that coaches are appropriately trained and educated on certain leadership principles is imperative to continued athletic and social success. After all, the athletic, personal and psychosocial development of young athletes is largely contingent on the meaningful and productive experiences that these youth sports enthusiasts have. During their impressionable and formative years, these children are enrolled in various athletic domains to cultivate friendship, develop socially and unique athletic interests. The leadership needs for each sport tend to vary. However, certain methods and approaches may be implemented at all levels in order to create a semi-standardized approach to youth sport leadership. ResearchPurpose and Questions The purpose of the research is to explain the need for leadership training and continuing education for youth sports’ coaches and trainers. The need for quality leadership training is essential in developing not only young athletes but also youthful upstanding citizens and successively, future community leaders. The need for optimism and achievement is apparent. However, undeniable questions must be asked and inquires must be answered about current leadership practices. For this analysis, the questions posed are: 1) Why is there need and where are the discrepancies in current leadership training within certain youth sports organizations? 2) Are there novel, established or developing leadership theories and principles that can be implemented to better support the organization and its leaders?
  5. 5. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 5 ResearchQuestion One Why is there a need and where are the discrepancies in current leadership within youth sports organizations? Coaching Duties, Responsibilities and Tasks Youth sports organizations are faced with an arduous task. Millions of young people enroll in numerous competitive sports and other recreational activities throughout their childhood. While there are certain clubs and groups that make leadership training a priority, there are certainly some instances, where there are organizational leaders who have inconsequential amounts of training relating to young people and the potentially sensitive issues these young people and their families may present. How can sports leaders assist in the development of their charges if the coaches and team administrators have little to no effective training themselves? Baseball, basketball, football and soccer teams, among others, are amongst these establishments that may need adequate training. Holt, Tink, Mandingo and Fox (2008) stress the importance of developing youth through sport: Indeed, modern conceptualizations of Positive Youth Development (PYD) are historically grounded in an ecological systems perspective. Briefly, proponents of PYD view adolescents as having the potential for positive developmental change, regarding youth as resources to be developed rather than problems to be solved (e.g., Lerner, 2005). Thus, researchers can examine how people engage in various contexts to gain a better understanding of how to promote positive development. (para. 7).
  6. 6. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 6 Nonetheless, there is sufficient substantiation that he immersion of youth in sport has led to the inculcation of conscientious social actions. Sports have often been mentioned as the channel that delivered the contact that has been proven so indispensable between rebellious youth and particularly instrumental individuals. Sport has been attributed with providing a sense of association, a sentiment of self-assurance in one's objective capacities, an appreciation of one's respective healthiness and aptness and the expansion of communal bonds with individuals and organizations (Seefeldt, 1993). Paralleled and collaborated with the importance of youth development is the need for leadership training and putting the training and ongoing development into thorough practice and into a proper context. Leadership Inconsistencies In many sports organizations, little to no training is mandated or in some cases, made available to current or would be coaches, administrators or team leaders. Although there is definitely training respective to the sport itself, there is unlikely even minimal training associated with concrete leadership theory and maintainable youth development. Usually, training is considered negligible and not considerably comprehensive. Sometimes, courses range from a couple of hours to an entire weekend. Rickabaugh (2009) writes: “With over 38 million U.S. youth (54% of children between ages 6 to 17) participating in organized sports each year, there is an ever increasing demand for entry- level youth sport leaders (Kassing et al., 2004; Seefeldt and Ewing, 1996)” (p. 13). To meet this leadership demand in organized youth sports, over 2.5 million adults volunteer to coach, yet less than 10% of these individuals have any formal coaching education (Seefeldt and Ewing, 1996). Due to no fault of their own, coaches may be sometimes
  7. 7. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 7 faced with elusive and complex situations that they may have little to no experience in resolving. Sometimes these circumstances do not revolve around sport, but they could relate to greater, more thoughtful psychosocial or personal issues. Need for Training, Efficiency in Development Coaches and team administrators must be able to take a valiant look at the ongoing and increasingly challenging issue of the development of young athletes both personally, socially and athletically. Children in this day and age are less active than they have been in decades. But, coaches, administrators and parents, serving as significant role models must also understand that they are dealing with children, supremely athletically gifted or not. Assessors suppose that parents and adolescence athletics coaches sometimes evade suggestion with the fact that young athletes, even excellent adolescent players, are children. Though the sports, competitive by nature, coaches are still dealing with those who have youthful and underdeveloped minds. Cognitive abilities of children must also be given meticulous and methodical consideration. The youth sports commitment should be devised in such a way as to postulate children with the experiences they want, need and deserve. Since parents and other adults form, fund and implement youth sport agendas, overseers need to guarantee that adult expectancies, unsuitable behaviors and achievement criteria are not imposed on young athletes (Pugh, Wolff, DeFrancesco, Gilley & Heltman, 2000). This can lead to unremitting complications such as: academic, physical, social and other unfledged development hindrances. Leaders who understand and are at least minimally trained in these issues can help circumvent these societal concerns by bestowing their positive practices on to young people.
  8. 8. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 8 Breedy (2007) writes: Due to changing family patterns and lack of educational opportunities, too many children fail to develop the necessary life skills to live healthy and safe lives. Children who do not learn these life skills before high school are at increasing risk of lives with little hope. Unfortunately, the children most in need are the ones who are most underserved due to changing family work patterns, transportation constraints, and economics. (para. 10). With any incongruity, there needs to be a solution. That solution may be cast from the likes of consequential (both positive and negative) experiences, through professionally driven leadership training or sport related service programs that put the responsibility in the hands of all concerned. ResearchQuestion Two Are there novel, established or developing leadership theories and principles that can be implemented to better support the organization and its leaders? Athletic Leadership is Diverse and Meaningful The implementation of new practices could alleviate some of the stresses that novice sport leaders may face. Sport leadership is different from that of traditional organizational leadership. The coach must accomplish tasks, develop relationships, direct diverse groups of parents and players and also manage expectation and ego. Coaches must make better use of expertise from the instructional domain; nonetheless, there is supplementary acknowledgment that making use of other domains of expertise, such as counseling or conflict management, may also enable coaches to create effective working relationships (Abraham & Collins, 2011). The utilization of specific teaching and
  9. 9. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 9 coaching techniques can and will be useful to help coaches refine their craft but also instill confidence and leadership principles in their adolescent protégés. Particularly, in some high-risk areas, sports play a pivotal role in socializing young people who may other wise be considered social outcasts. Offering such sporting prospects for youth who have fallen out of society and have been indicated as not being participatory in other forms of community activity are viewed to be of even more value for them (Haudenhuyse, Theeboom & Coalter, 2012). Furthermore, concerning susceptible collections of young, researchers have found, “In a British cohort study, Feinstein et al. (2005) have found that for vulnerable groups sports club attendance at age 16 years reduced the chances of social exclusion outcomes during adulthood (age 30 years)” (Haudenhuyse et al, 2012, para. 1). Studies such as this show the need for young people to be led effectively, professionally and with the future and “bigger picture” at the forefront of combined efforts. Experienced coaches and leadership professionals who are passionate about community development, social success through athletics and producing a well-rounded group of future leaders must take heed and establish thorough leadership practices that will allow for these principles to come to fruition. Sporting Guidance is Integral to Youth Development Naturally, young athletes who play competitive sports may be under relatively high amounts of psychological pressure to perform optimally. Subsequently, coaches must be versed in methods to enhance conceptual resilience and mitigate excessive anxiety. Mental toughness has been defined as one of the most expended but least comprehended expressions in athletic psychology (Bell, Hardy & Beattie, 2013). Youth sports organizations that are in their infancy can adopt best practices and leadership
  10. 10. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 10 models from sister organizations that have found success. Certain professional organizations have youth academies or programs that have the same mission and vision as their parent companies. Small, private organizations may adopt a similar style in order to better leader performance. Rickabaugh (2009) found that: In order to take advantage of this educational opportunity, undergraduate sport science programs must develop early learning strategies that, (a) develop a sound initial philosophy for youth sport leadership, and (b) promote a realistic understanding of the professional demands of youth sport leadership. (p. 14). This ideal implies that sport organizations are in need of a youth sports leadership methodology to better prepare coaches and sport administrators as well as continuously develop young athletes. Conclusion and Recommendation Leadership is an important concept to cultivate, especially for youth, adolescents and those entering emerging adulthood. In order for young people to eventually become successful leaders, their prominent leaders must also be able to set the obligatory standard and put the best foot forward. Coaches face difficult times as they train young athletes to be prepared for athletic competition and other societal anxieties. Many people get their start in leadership from their experiences with sport, teams and subsequently, influential coaches. Haughey (1999) writing about service learning and athletic leadership states: Whether your student athletes are in middle school, high school, or college, leadership abilities that can be used off the field will be a major long-term benefit of their team experience. Build on the natural foundation
  11. 11. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 11 that being on an athletic team provides by incorporating service learning and planed leadership development into your team program. (p. 36). Taking these actions a step further can lead to a better-developed and intelligent athlete and coach. It is important for practitioners and researchers to understand that coaches will never deal solely with athletic issues. Coaches and sport leaders must know how to tend to these various tasks. Relationships must be established with parents, peers and the players themselves. The sophistication of these associations will be assurance of optimally performing leaders, organizations and team members. However, special consideration should be given to the organizations and its leaders who are already implementing similar practices as have been stated above. But, even if there are control measures in place to ensure leadership consistency, there is always room for subsequent improvement. In theory, these ideals may work well. Nevertheless, it is also the duty and responsibility of administrators, coaches and parents to do their due diligence in order to ensure that the children participating in these various athletic fields are receiving adequate and sustained guidance. Recommended Action Plan Organizational Thoughts for Action Organizations have the rights and abilities to be selective in their hiring processes. Hiring only those with significant experience, education and training could allow for higher rates of success. Beginner coaches and trainers can also be put through a harmonized probationary period in which they are under the tutelage of an experienced practitioner. Governing authorities must implement and employ certain control measures to ensure the facilitation of leadership. Primary leadership courses and continuing
  12. 12. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 12 education credits can be used to guarantee continuity. Most youth sports clubs, leagues and associations have large parent organization or governing bodies that have greater reach and resources than that of smaller community-based models. Community-based organizations can learn to first look to these larger organizations as a resource, rather than someone or something that they must report to be governed by. Mandated Training Strategies These companies usually have an organizational framework that is similar to a major corporation. These parent agencies are equipped with experienced coaches, board of directors/trustees and something similar to a human resources department. These governing bodies must make it necessary to implement operational leadership training seminars and workshops and mandate to current and potential coaches. For example: a youth soccer club has 10 coaches on staff. These coaches are of varying ages, ability levels and socioeconomic backgrounds On the anniversary of their hire date or during an appropriate time centered around the competitive season, the coaches must attend formal leadership training or complete X number of hours of distance education applicable to their respective sport. Though a frame of reference borrowed from elite collegiate athletics, Clubb (2012) does well to sum up the genuine purpose of integrating sport and overall youth development: The university’s intercollegiate athletics strategic plan identifies ways in which student-athletes can push themselves academically, embrace the tenets of global-citizenship and develop themselves as extraordinary leaders. (p. 42).
  13. 13. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 13 The community-based organization can bring in specialist consultants, subject-matter experts or provide someone organic to the organization itself who is trained and qualified to lead discussion and facilitate action.
  14. 14. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 14 References: Abraham, A. & Collins, D. (2011). Taking the next step: Ways forward for coaching science. Quest, 63.4, p. 366-384. doi: 10.1080/00336297.2011.10483687. Bell, J.J., Hardy, L. & Beattie, S. (2013). Enhancing mental toughness and performance under pressure in elite young cricketers: A 2-year longitudinal intervention. Sports, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 2.4, p. 281-297. DOI: 10.1037/a0033129. Breedy, J. (2007). Sports based youth development: [A global perspective]. Independent School, 66.4, p. 40-48. Retrieved from Clubb, S. (2012). Beyond the carrot and the stick: Toward a transformative model of division I athletics. Liberal Education, 98.4, 42-47. Retrieved from Haudenhuyse, R., Theeboom, M. & Coalter, F. (2012). The potential of sports-based social interventions for vulnerable youth: Implications for sport coaches and youth workers. Journal of Youth Studies, 15.4, p. 437-454. Retrieved from Haughey, L. (1999). Athletes off the field: A model for team building and leadership development through service learning. ERIC, 1-39. Holt, N., Tink, L., Manding, J. & Fox, K. (2008). Do youth learn life skills their involvement in high school sport? A case study. Canadian Journal of Education, 31.2, p. 281-304. Retrieved from
  15. 15. ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP 15 Pugh, S., Wolff, R. & Defrancesco, C. (2000). A case study of elite male youth baseball athletes' perception of the youth sports experience. Education, 120.4, p. 773-781. Retrieved from Rickabaugh, T. (2009). Exploring commitment to youth sports leadership. Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sports Educators, 23.2, p. 12-15. Retrieved from Seefeldt, V. (1993). Overview of youth sports programs in the United States. Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. Retrieved from