Applying social network analysis to examine the shared nature of athlete leadership within a competitive hockey team: A longitudinal case study
AbstractResearch has demonstrated that athlete leadership is a shared practice (e.g., Fransen et al., 2015). That is, numerous team members partake in a team's leadership processes through both formal and informal leadership roles. This research has typically examined athlete leadership using cross-sectional designs, paying little attention to the development and dynamic nature of this construct over time. Using a longitudinal design, the current study used social network analysis (SNA) to examine the shared nature of athlete leadership within a competitive, highly-ranked adolescent male ice hockey team. Specifically, members of the team (N = 20) completed roster-based surveys related to task and social athlete leadership at five time points during the season. Results from two network-based analyses (i.e., network centralization and network density) suggested that the team's task and social leadership became increasingly shared as the season progressed. In particular, the network centralization scores decreased indicating that leadership became more distributed amongst the players and less centralized from Time 1 (task = 32.62%; social = 32.20%) to Time 5 (task = 29.43%; social = 25.90%). Further, the network density scores increased over time indicating that players reported looking more frequently to other team members for leadership at Time 5 (task = 2.20; social = 2.33) than Time 1 (task = 1.81; social = 1.83). The results highlight the value of using a longitudinal design and SNA to examine the shared nature of athlete leadership. Practically, the findings suggest athlete leadership is a shared and dynamic construct that can evolve over time.