Modelling the complexity of the coaching process

Having had a great playing career before retiring from active football last year, Aalishah has decided to continue dedicating her life TO the sport she passionately loves, but this time around, in a coaching role. She had realized even in her playing days that coaching job is a different ball game that requires an enormous responsibility and leadership acumen to succeed. However, stepping into reality for the first time Aalishah has been facing different challenges in her new career especially lacking confidence in herself. However, being a committed athlete to her work, she has resolved to whether the storm, equip herself with the right skills and take on the world of coaching hence her quest for the best leadership model to lead her team.

To succeed, Aalishah will need to work on two things: a strong self-confidence that will always remind her that she can do it; and a effective leadership approach needed to carry her players along to achieve results in the game of football. It will be difficult for her to motivate her team if she lacks the courage in herself as the satisfaction of her “psychological needs [as a coach will] allow her to thrive, and to create an adaptive interpersonal coaching environment for athletes” (Stebbings et al, 2011: 255-272). The best way to get these done is through the application of leadership approach that has been one of the most effective in the sporting world- The application of Chelladurai’s Multidimensional Model of Leadership. This model will in no small extent, help her to correctly assume and perform the role of transformational leadership in coaching; create an effective coaching environment; and coaching behaviours and team performance.

To start with, a brief look at the concept of Chelladurai’s Multidimensional Model of Leadership gives a justifiable reason why many sporting organizations have widely accepted it. The model encompasses the three aspects of leadership which focus on the leader; the members or followers; and the goal (Multidimensional Model). As a leader with the desire to succeed in leading her team, the Chelladurai’s Multidimensional Model (MML) model prescribes that such a person must first have a clear understanding of what it termed ‘required behaviour’, which include the goals of the team, the nature of the task at hand, and cultural and social makeup of the team. With this, Coach Alishah’s first requirement towards her coaching success story is to define her aims and objectives for the new team clearly. She must design a framework that will, in clear terms, reflect the aspirations of the team. The framework must include both short-term and long-term goals of the team, with the understanding of where she wants her team to be in the next few seasons, and the milestones to cover in years or decades to come.

Having set and understand the behavioural goal, the implementation will not be feasible without having the right perspective of the nature of the task ahead of her. To do this, she will need to understand the makeup of the team in terms of gender, cultural and social background. Leading a team of young women who are in their late teens and early twenties, Alishah needs to perfectly understand that there will be a lot of ego play coming from her players who mostly are at the stage of stepping into adulthood. Apart from player management, her role has bestowed upon her the responsibility of also carrying the fans and also her backroom staff along. This is another crucial role that will determine her success on the job. This is very important as “coaching is not just local events of engagement in certain activities with certain people”, it goes beyond that, it is “a more encompassing process of being active participants in practices of social communities and constructing identities in relation to these communities” (Chris Cushion 2007: 427-433).

To have a successful career among these three groups of people whose perceptions and judgments are crucial to her success, she will need an integral part of the multidimensional leadership model known as a transformational leadership style. Transformational leadership approach is a model of leadership that ensures that a leader has her focus more on improving his followers’ well-being. It helps a leader build a strong connection that is needed to bring out and increase the level of respect and enthusiasm in a leader-follower relationship (Northouse 2016: 162).

A transformational leader believes that by committing herself into improving his followers’ welfare, she will in the end up bringing out their full potential, without which will be tough to achieve the goals of the team in the first place. While most other leadership styles are transactional, the transformational model, on the other hand, would instead build the team relationship on trust and warmth. With this, the followers will always be ready to share their feelings, fears, pains and joys with the leader r with the confidence that she will always be ready to go extra miles in helping them reach the pinnacle of their career height.

With the transformational model, Alishah will have an effective coaching environment and her team will always be willing to play their hearts out for her. In the coaching world, players have a way of sabotaging the efforts of a coach whose leadership style they do not fancy. For instance, the case of the former coach of the English Premiership League side, Manchester United, Jose Mourinho, is a testament to this. When the players fell out with the coach owing to his leadership approach, they began playing woefully and losing games week in week out. The poor performances later saw the end of the coach at the club. However, immediately a new gaffer took over, the team was resurgent. The same team which had been on a losing streak suddenly got enthusiastic and energetic for the first time in a long while and went up to ten matches unbeaten.

This, however, is not farfetched as a study had shown that the most positive outcomes in team sport occurred when players played for coaches who respond to mistakes with encouragement and technical instruction (Smoll et al, 2007: 75–90). The study further revealed that “not only did the athletes who had such coaches like their coaches more and have more fun, but they also liked their teammates more.” This is to show that without a warm atmosphere in the team, the coach will not succeed. She will need always to make her players’ wants and feelings a priority because without them being happy, there is no way they give her result, and as a norm in the football world, the buck stops at the coach’s table.

The question, therefore, is how does she develop effective coaching environment and the right coaching behaviours that will reflect on her team performance? This can be achieved by embracing the dualistic model. The model proposed two types of passion: “harmonious (HP) and obsessive (OP) passion that predict adaptive and less adaptive interpersonal outcomes, respectively” (Lafrenière et al, 2008: 541-560). The model is inherent on the premise that a strong inclination is built towards self-defining activity in which one likes and finds importance. The harmonious and obsessive passion can, however, “be differentiated in terms of how the passionate activity has been internalized into one’s identity” (Lafreniere et al 2008). While Alishah would like to be loved by her team, it is of utmost importance that she takes into consideration the fact that one leadership style might not be appropriate for everyone and in every situation. To this end, while democratic style might be effective in some cases and for some players, on the other hand, some will need the autocratic style to bring out the best in them. A study has “revealed a significant positive relationship of coaches’ verbal aggressiveness with anxiety, autocratic style, and a negative significant relationship concerning coaches’ verbal aggression with enjoyment, ability, effort, and democratic style” (Singer et al, 2014: 647-671). As a team sport coach, a balance must be maintained between the two leadership styles.

In conclusion, Alishah success at her new job will be determined by her level of commitment in following the fundamental rules of the multidimensional model of leadership. She must maintain a balance that will always reflect a positive atmosphere in her team.





Cushion. C. (2007) ‘Modelling the complexity of the coaching process: a response to commentaries’, International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 427–433. Available: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019].

Lafrenière, M.A, Jowett, S., Vallerand, R., Donahue, E. and Lorimer, R. (2008) ‘Passion in sport: on the quality of the coach–athlete relationship’, Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 30, 541–560. Available: [Accessed: 16 Feb. 2019]

Multidimensional Model of Sport Leadership. Psychology Research and Reference, Psychology. Available: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019]

Northouse, G. (2016) Leadership Theory and Practice: Situational Approach Strength. Sage Publication DOI: 9781483317533, 7, 137-193.

Singer, R.N., Murphy, M. and Tenant, K.L. 2014. Handbook of Research in Sport Psychology New York, Macmillan, pp. 647–671.

Smoll, F. and Smith, R. 2007. Social-cognitive approach to coaching behaviors’ in in Jowett, S. and Lavallee, D. (eds) Social Psychology in Sport, Leeds, Human Kinetics, 75–90. Available: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019].


Stebbings, J., Taylor, I.M. and Spray, C.M. 2011. Antecedents of perceived coach autonomy supportive and controlling behaviors: coach psychological need satisfaction and well-being’, Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 33, no. 2, 255–272. Available: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019].



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