Sport team leadership coaching and captaincy in elite level rugby union football
Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/15511
A wide range of literature exists on coaching but it is concerned predominantly with the high school and college levels, is based upon athlete or coach perceptions, or is confined to observations of training or competition. As leaders of sports teams, coaches and captains have rarely been studied at the highest level of national or international sports competition. In the present study, the team leadership roles of the coach and captain in elite rugby union football in New Zealand were examined using participant observation and other qualitative research methods. Elite was defined as New Zealand rugby’s highest internal level of competition: (a) the national provincial championships and (b) international test matches of the national team, the All Blacks. The study explored the roles of the elite rugby coach and captain in vivo in a wide variety of team situations. It was felt that this could provide first-hand information on particular team leader behaviours, on what a coach and captain actually do, and how they are perceived by those around them. The main objective, however, was to use grounded theory techniques to create a model of elite rugby team leadership that might guide developmental programmes on such leadership. The research phases undertaken were those of participant observation with a Provincial Team for five matches, a survey of provincial teams’ coaches and captains on their leadership associated with actual matches, three years’ participant observation with the All Blacks (including observation in eight test match weeks), multiple perspectives on elite team leadership from past rugby test players in New Zealand and overseas, and interviews with national team leaders in sports other than rugby. Participant observation, interviews, questionnaires and document analysis generated data from the research settings. These data were considered in terms of symbolic interactionism and subjected to a grounded theory process. This led to a set of elite rugby team leadership categories and properties which, in turn, generated a comprehensive set of theoretical propositions. The propositions became the basis for a model of elite rugby team leadership. This model was then considered as the basis for a programme to develop elite rugby team leaders. Significant aspects of the research findings which have not featured in previous research literature included the coach’s vision, team culture, centrality of the game plan, match week build-up, the importance of the captain’s playing example, the coach's ability to utilise teaching precepts, the coach’s personal qualities, and the need to develop and evaluate team leaders. The model, and the developmental programme principles emanating from it, are seen as relevant for developing elite level leaders in team sports other than rugby.
The University of Waikato
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