Evaluating relationships between Canadian university athletes' perceptions of full range leadership coaching behaviours and their personal and socio-emotional development


Although university coaches claim to prioritize athletes' personal and socio-emotional development (Flett et al., 2010), a lack of empirical research exists on the degree to which athletes' developmental outcomes are influenced by coaches. The purpose of this study was to examine relationships between coaches' full range leadership behaviours (Avolio & Bass, 2004) and university athletes' personal and socio-emotional development. A total of 605 Canadian university athletes (237 male, 368 female) completed the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (Avolio & Bass, 2004) and the Personal Development Scale for University Sport (Rathwell & Young, 2015). Using AMOS 21 software, we tested a structural model where coaching behaviours predicted seven developmental outcomes from sport. Results showed good model fit, CFI = .908, RMSEA = .040 (90% CI: .038-.041), and SRMR = .089. Structural path results indicated athletes' ratings for their coach's transformational leadership behaviours were positively related to their perceived development of identity (SE= .62), initiative (SE= .44), and contribution (SE= .21), and negatively related to experiences of negative leadership (SE= -.18). No relationships were found between athletes' ratings for their coach's transactional behaviours and developmental outcomes. Coaches' laissez faire behaviours had significant positive relationships with athletes' perceived development of initiative (SE= .27) and contribution (SE= .29), as well as their experiences of stress (SE= .32) and negative leadership (SE= .44). The current results provide support for the benefits of transformational coaching behaviours (Vella et al., 2013), and suggest that university sport may be a unique setting where laissez faire leadership can produce positive outcomes.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through a Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded to the first author.