Coach leadership and how it affects team performance

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When things go wrong for an athlete or a team, supporters can be very quick to point the finger at the coach or manager. Perhaps they have got their tactics wrong, maybe the team wasn’t fit enough or is it possible that the coach just wasn’t able to inspire the players to get the best out of them? In some cases a mounting injury list may be blamed on a manager not getting the training schedule right and not having his team ready to perform.

One of the areas where a coach can come up short is his/her management style and it is generally believed that this can be important in terms of

  • inspiring the player
  • ensuring enjoyment
  • getting individuals to believe in themselves and
  • guiding them to produce their best on the big day

Coaches and Managers play a vital role in sports teams and to be successful they need to create an ideal environment for players to achieve their full potential. Not every athlete can be treated the same way and how coaches relate to individual athletes can affect the performance of the whole team.

Coaching style can have physical consequences

A 2017 report suggests that the coaching style isn’t just important in terms of the mental approach but it has physical consequences also. Is there a correlation between coaches’ leadership styles and injuries in elite football teams? A study of 36 elite teams in 17 countries concludes that the approach of a manager can have an impact on the level of injuries within a squad.

The study, carried out by Jan Ekstrand, Daniel Lundqvist, Lars Lagerbäck, Marc Vouillamoz, Niki Papadimitiou and Jon Karlsson, set out to see if leadership style could have a negative impact on players and affect their health and well-being. To do this they received information from players among 36 elite football clubs in 17 cities across Europe in order to assess the leadership style of the head coach. The ‘Global Transformational Leadership scale’, a reliable and appropriate tool for assessing transformational leadership, was used to assess their coaches’ leadership styles. In tandem with this, the authors also tracked each player’s exposure to football and time-loss injuries.

The study concluded that there is an association between injury rates and players’ availability and that of the leadership style of the head coach. The authors explained that the main finding was that clubs where coaches used a transformational or democratic leadership style had a lower incidence of severe injuries, although they did point out that the variation was just 6%. The authors described how they came to their conclusions with the following explanations of a number of important factors.

Articulating a positive vision of the future reduces the risk of severe injuries

We found that leadership behaviors that communicated a clear and positive vision of the future appeared to reduce the risk of severe injuries. This is in line with the idea that transformational leaders develop an image of the future of their organisation and communicate that vision to their subordinates

Staff development is important in order to avoid severe injuries and increase attendance at training

In our study, a leadership style that treated staff as individuals and supported and encouraged their development was associated with a 4% increase in attendance rates at training and a 33% decline in the incidence of severe injuries

Supportive leadership has a positive impact

A supportive leadership style, whereby the coach gives encouragement and recognition to staff, appears to reduce the incidence of severe injuries and increase attendance rates at training sessions….Supportive leadership is not just important for individual players; it is important for the team as a whole

Fostering trust and cooperation increases attendance rates at training

We found that coaches who trust their staff and support cooperation between staff members are more likely to have higher attendance rates at training. Innovative thinking could increase attendance at training. A leadership style that encourages people to think about problems in new ways and question assumptions seems to increase attendance at training

Leading by example appears to increase availability
In this study, low levels of clarity about a coach’s values were associated with a 5% decline in players’ availability for training and matches relative to moderate levels of clarity. This highlights the coach’s function as a role model that players can use as a source of guidance.

However, they noted that charisma has no impact on injury rates or players’ availability when pointing out:

In our study, there was no correlation between charismatic leadership and injury rates or players’ availability… Overall, our findings suggest that, to reduce the incidence of severe injuries and increase attendance at training, coaches should establish an interpersonal environment characterized by support, respect, trust and appreciation of staff and players

How Metrifit can help

Metrifit provides an immediate snap shot of athlete well-being across a number of metrics such as sleep, stress, readiness to perform, muscle soreness and training loads. It provides communication and feedback portals to support creating an optimal environment for success. It help fine-tune the coach-athlete relationship. Highlighting deviations from norms allows coaches to step-in with a quick chat to help a player get back on track or refer him/her to the proper support personnel for further assistance.

Metrifit’s new lifestyle profiling functionality is based on years of experience in this area – we know the key factors that underlie optimal performance. It provides an essential baseline to assess where you are, and set goals and objectives to improve in key areas that ultimately will improve your team’s performance.

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Is there a correlation between coaches’ leadership styles and injuries in elite football teams? A study of 36 elite teams in 17 countries by Jan Ekstrand, Daniel Lundqvist, Lars Lagerbäck, Marc Vouillamoz, Niki Papadimitiou, Jon Karlsson

What Is Transformational Leadership? A Closer Look at the Effects of Transformational Leadership By Kendra Cherry

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