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Improving leadership in coaches, administrators and players

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Leadership makes up a significant part of a person’s overall life. People without any leadership skills, often developed through sports, increases the likelihood of a lower quality of life. From parenting to careers, leadership skills or interacting with leaders is a large part of a person’s life. Hezlett (2016) finds that becoming an effective leader is not an easy or natural accomplishment. The difficulty is multiplied when attempting to teach other individuals how to lead effectively. The important role of leadership in today’s world makes it imperative that coaches, players, and administrators actively learn leadership development as well as how to teach leadership skills to others. Fairfield High School is committed to improving our student athletes by addressing the leadership skills of the major stakeholders. Student-athletes, coaches, and administrators should all learn leadership skills but also how to instill them in others. Similar to other components of educational based athletics, these skills, and traits do not simply manifest from sport involvement but from the direct and intentional teaching, practicing, and incorporating these skills into athletics by coaches.

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It is not uncommon for students and coaches to be placed into leadership positions without guidance or training on how to effectively lead. It is often assumed that leadership naturally evolves or grows from sport involvement or being put in a position of leadership. This is not an accurate assessment of leadership. A sports captain in high school, for instance, is nominated by coaches or teammates, this places the captain in a compromising position, having to decide whether to be a leader or a friend but usually not both. Yet, coaching can address problematic issues, when approached from a standpoint that seeks to empower the individual into achieving their best. It not only boosts leadership behaviors but recognition and buy-in as well. Accountability is essential for successes and failures, but the instructional approach to coaching leadership creates support for an individual to attain personal and professional goals through the provision of guidance, advice, and training.

Section II B (Text): ANALYSIS

Enhancing Leadership in Student-Athletes

Leadership comes in two forms and both are vital to team success. Both formal captains and informal leaders on a team help teammates improve individual performance, team outcomes, program communication, and overall team cohesion. Their leadership’s vital role in team and organizational success has been examined in various settings from team sports to business and interpersonal situations. In the same light, to determine or measure the leadership competency of an individual accurately, it is essential to evaluate the most vital leadership characteristics. The MML (Multidimensional Model of Leadership), created by Chelladurai in 1978, has often been applied in diverse leadership settings. Chelladurai created the LSS (Leadership Scale for Sports) theory as a metric to be used in assessing coaches’ leadership abilities.

Within the LSS test were multiple categories such as positive feedback behaviors, social support, autocratic behaviors, democratic behaviors, instruction, and training. The MML model is the most used leadership theory in sports; however, the tests and metrics used do not always qualify as valid leadership measures. Lack of reliable and valid outcome variables measures of satisfaction and performance make the MML hard to justify (Cotterill and Fransen 2016).

The above problem illustrates that leadership skill development theories among student-athletes should be based on facts and research, as opposed to only what the student-athlete thinks is expected of a good leader. Many questions are left unanswered by the MML model in student-athlete leadership characteristics that are proven effective. In addition, as much as this leadership theory is popular in sports, the MML rarely teaches people how to employ leadership skills. It is more focused on outcomes from leaders rather than the required actions that would produce the needed leadership behaviors. Consequently, student-athletes who choose to adopt this theory have no guidelines or instructions to aid them to improve their leadership skills.

Researchers note this lack of effectiveness and structure in this leadership model (MML) and various fields choose to apply the transformational leadership theory (Dong, Bartol, Zhang, and Li, 2017). The NIAAA in some of its classes empahisizes transformational leadership style as well. This model of leadership is a leadership style that is moral, ethical, and practical. The leader influences the behaviors of team members using motivation. Bernard M. Bass tweaked this theory to include four major components. Idealized influence defines a leader’s character that is admired by his or her followers due to respect and trust. Others include inspirational motivation, which reveals a leader’s ability and clear vision to propel followers into achieving goals that work regarding a particular vision. The individualized consideration that speaks to a leader’s encouragement and support to persons within the organization. Finally, the intellectual stimulation that concerns a leader’s ability to encourage creativity among followers.

In many aspects of life, whether business, personal, or teamwork, successful outcomes are often related to effective leadership. Unfortunately, few teams invest in the needed resources to guide their future captains and leaders (Brown, 2016). Fairfield High School coaches have a duty to the entire team. They budget their limited time and decide not to spare time to teach leadership skills such as younger teammates’ mentorship, motivation, and communication skills to their captains. They also do not always have the tools or abilities to know how to intentionally teach leadership skills to their captains or leaders. Connected to teaching leadership skills it is probably necessary to teach student athlete leaders about stress management. Being a leader or captain can also bring about stress with peers, and the student-athlete needs tools to deal with this stress.

Enhancing Leadership in Coaches

Although there are an unlimited number of coaching outcomes, there is no one specific plan to enhance coaching leadership. A general approach, however, may be agreed upon. If Fairfield High School wants our coaches to be effective, it is vital that coaches identify their objectives and follow a thorough coach selection process for captains with a mindset that is ready and willing to change and learn (Wang, Wilhite, and Martino, 2016). The motivation of student athletes is a part that is related to this mindset.

Athletes are willing and inspired to grow as a person and as an athlete when they realize the difference between their present situation and the situation they want to be in. For Fairfield High School coaches, as a condition of effective coaching, it is important they are receptive to new, unique, and diverse ways of seeing solutions and problems.

Trust is another vital coaching characteristic that needs to be earned, enabling the coach to provide the appropriate balance of support and challenge to the athlete throughout the season and school year. The reason a coaching relationship is successful due to trust is that the student-athlete will be more open to being coached, giving the coach far more influence. This is, however, not a simple process. Behaviorally, trust is different between each individual. The coach must constantly work on building, maintaining and enhancing trust. Coaches must evaluate their own motivations and behaviors to be sure all student athletes see the coach as reliable. Building, maintaining and enhancing trust is a constant and continual process that needs to be nurtured at all times. The coach must also respect and have an understanding of the leadership capabilities of the players and what trust means to each individual. This is a focus of Fairfield’s Athletic Director in working with the coaches. Trust is an ongoing process, different for each player, and must be evaluated throughout the entire contact with the players.

In fact, as Ivashchenko, Yarmak, Galan, Nakonechnyi, and Zoriy (2017) note, trust is so vital between the coach and the player being trained on leadership that success can seldom be achieved in its absence. One of the most important ways to build trust in a relationship is honoring confidentiality. This will be vitally important to our coaches who we want to focus their coaching on leadership and organizational coaching. To enhance coaches’ leadership skills, introducing them to the various leadership theories as proposed by Northouse.

One of the best leadership theories to utilize in this regard would be the authentic leadership theory. This theory interestingly lacks a singly accepted definition. However, the general thought of an authentic leader is one who acts as they “really are.” The major underlying component of coaching authentically is that it gives the coach credibility with the players. It is possible to empower authentic leadership within the approach of the Fairfield coaches by concentrating on the ability to focus and determine core issues, and the capability to institute the four authentic leadership components; 1) relational transparency,

2) balanced processing, 3) internalized moral perspective, 4) and self-awareness.

These key authentic leadership components lead to a successful coaching philosophy and coaching partnership with student athletes.

Another leadership theory that would greatly aid in enhancing coaches’ leadership is the psychodynamic theory. A core theme in this leadership theory concerns the significance of personality that deals with how other people act, feel, and think about their job, life, hopes, and dreams. The theory focuses on integrating leadership with personality and the linkage between followers and leaders. Coaches’ leadership traits could be enhanced using this theory as it focuses more on improving leaders’ and followers’ awareness of their personality including how personality would affect their actions on the team and in other life areas.

Ladegard and Gjerde (2014) believe that it is a theory that is somehow complicated; they contend that improved self-awareness can greatly develop leadership ultimately leading to improved leadership and self-management. This is a key part to educational athletics. If Fairfield student athletes learn how to become more self-aware, they will necessarily manage themselves better in leadership endeavors throughout their life.

Enhancing Leadership in Administration

One of the major ways in which leadership could be enhanced in the administration is in the creation of ethical policies and modeling ethical decision making. With an understanding that ethics concerns the wrong and right conduct of individuals, ethical policies will, therefore, directly affect district coach and athletic director performance, ensuring ethical compliance from the decision making level. As a result, process performance improves, which benefits all stakeholders. In schools, for example, ethical decision making fosters an ethical athletic program, which is often beneficial to the individual, the school, staff members, and the admininstration. It also carries over to the student athletes themselves.

Equally important, creating an ethical culture that is often beneficial to the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) an organization could create leaders who are emotionally intelligent. MacKie (2014) argues that leaders who are emotionally intelligent, particularly those that possess well-developed empathy and interpersonal skills, have more prospects of appreciating the consequences of their behavior and dealing with them accordingly. Administrators like this are more inclined to learn and understand the various important needs of coaches and athletes they are working with.

Lastly, emotionally intelligent leaders are more approachable, which makes it easy for people to relate to them. In this regard, such an administrator or leader can comprehend better what is deemed as fair, which will help inspire trust among all employees, including coaches. The development of leaders who are emotionally intelligent in an organization is critical to the overall development of ethical school athletic programs (Mackie 2014.)

An administrative leader is often charged with the responsibility of institutionalizing practices that observe experiences and ascertain what does not work and that, which works. This would be done purposely to improve the school’s effectiveness. Some of the major activities that would be central in the administrative leader’s job would include training other staff members where the weakness is evident and conducting continual analysis of the overall work and effectiveness the schoo has done. Where weaknesses are found, administrative leaders should identify whether they have been caused by lack of process or the required skill was not employed in the tasks. This is a crucial decision that administrators have to become skilled making. The administrator’s central role is focusing on defining the task and procedure. The leader should then ensure that it has begun being worked on while encouraging the other employees to increase their skills in their areas and be sure they are implementing them.

Conclusion

Leadership entails more than being the head of a team or having a title that is high-ranking. There is a difference between a leader having the authority to articulate the actions that the team will take and how to motivate followers to accomplishing the desired goals. A great leader is one who makes the people that surround him much better. The eagle coaching staff and administration needs to make a priority that they share a common sense of understanding and trust between themselves and the people they are striving to lead.

It is imperative for all leaders to learn to connect with team members and have a more humane attitude towards the directions that he or she issues to team members. This means that Fairfield players, coaches, and administrators need to have love, humility, compassion, empathy, purpose, and positivity. With these traits, the player, the coach, and the administration, is more likely to genuinely connect with other team members and develop a mutual trust that is vital in building a solid culture of high performance and accountability. Fairfield High School is striving for this connection and this leadership in all of its stakeholders.

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