There are leaders everywhere. And everyone wants to or at least aspire to be a leader.
The media through their headlines routinely illustrates the importance of effective leaders, a Prime Minister leading the country, a Health Minister leading from in front, a head coach or captain carrying a team or a Police Commissioner leading the charges. Based on a generic definition of leadership as a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal, Of course, this is different in every country or organization.
Sporting leaders influence team cohesion, athlete satisfaction and team confidence (Fransen et al., 2012; Price & Weiss, 2011; Vincer & Loughead, 2010).
For example, when an athlete leader clearly expresses team confidence, this positively affects the team confidence of his or her teammates. Coaches and players on the field confirm the importance of athlete leaders.
The performance of a leader is very clear in interactive games and during matches. Although less obvious in co-active situations, the leader’s contribution to the effectiveness of a team’s performance is also influential.
The motivational speeches of coaches, the encouragement of teammates on the field, and even the chanting and cheering of fans are all basic ingredients of every sports game. In accordance with these on-field experiences, several studies indicated that motivating and encouraging behaviours are crucial for effective athlete leadership (Dupuis, Bloom, & Loughead, 2006;).
Leo Beenhakker's famous words "Play with blood in your shoes" during a team address in 2005 is another example of effective communication by a team leader. It was at a team talk before the 3-2 win over Guatemala he said: "And if you are not sufficiently interested in playing your football life, playing the entire game with blood in your shoes then please just tell me and stay away."
For the remaining matches, it was evident Beenhakker's men did in fact play as though their lives depended on every single play.
Another way to classify athlete leaders is based on the formal or informal character of their leadership function. A formal leader is a player who has been prescribed that function formally by the coach or by the team, e.g., the team captain who has been formally appointed to be captain of the team. Dwight Yorke for his role during the 2006 World Cup campaign is a prime example of an outstanding formal leader.
An informal leader on the other hand has no formal leadership position but becomes a team leader informally, as a result of the interactions that occur within the team such as the case with Russell Latapy’s return during the late stages of the qualifiers in 2005 into Germany 2006.
Previous studies acknowledge the existence of both formal (e.g a team captain) and informal athlete leaders within sports teams (Holmes, et al., 2010; Loughead, et al., 2006).
The captain is often assigned as “the” leader of the team; he is expected to act as a liaison between the organisation heads, coaching staff and the players, to act as a leader during all team activities, and to represent the team at receptions, meetings, and press conferences (Mosher, 1979). Furthermore, the captain engages in both task and social behaviours, such as coaching their teammates or providing social support (Voelker, et al., 2011).
Most times many including the media and fans assume that the team captain takes the lead both on and off the field. But this is not always the case. Although the captain received most research attention, some studies explored the impact of informal leadership as well (Loughead, et al., 2006). These studies emphasized that, although athlete leaders often have the formal position of team captain, other players within the team also have an important role as an informal leader (Loughead, et al., 2006).
So in 2006, we would have had other leaders such as Shaka Hislop, Latapy and other senior players who had similar attributes. The recent T&T Gold Cup squad had Khaleem Hyland as captain but there was also Kevin Molino and Marvin Phillip taking the lead at times. The St Kitts and Nevis Patriots had Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle.
Using role differentiation theory (Bales, 1950) athlete leaders can be classified based on their function. Leaders with an instrumental function are concerned with tasks, whereas leaders with an expressive function are concerned with interpersonal relationships.
These two functions are not mutually exclusive: athlete leaders can simultaneously engage in both task and social behaviours. A third, recently identified function of athlete leaders is the external function by which the leader represents the group at meetings and media conferences, not necessarily the team captain.
So traditionally, leadership research has focused on the coach as formal leader of the team, guiding the team to optimal performance from a top-down, hierarchical perspective [6, 7]. However, now leadership is not restrictive to the coach and players within the team can also take on important leadership roles, which is a phenomenon known as athlete leadership. Good coaches use this to their advantage, knowing how and when to make it work to their benefit.
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He was a FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. The views expressed are solely his and not a representation of any organisation. email@example.com