Personality, Training, & Leadership: Leadership

I’ve just realised that I spent a long time tearing my hair out on the dissertation for my masters, and haven’t ever talked about it on the Mighty Pucks. The title was examining the interactive effects of athlete personality and coach transformational leadership upon athlete training behaviours which is not only a horror to write, I had to spit that out during a speech too!  It was important to research this – not just to finish my degree – because each area has been researched but nobody has really connected the dots.


So far we’ve established that people have different personalities and put athletes into training scenarios and they behave in different ways. Some traits lead to desirable training behaviours (conscientiousness and quality of preparation) whereas others are more undesirable (extraversion and distractibility). My masters dissertation was basically investigating these relationships and asking “how can we counteract that?” Who is present at training? The coach!

Transformational leadership is explained as a style that advances both the leader and the followers to the next level – how can we develop people to their highest potential? Transactional leadership is about receiving direct rewards or punishments from a performance. The majority of coaches fall on a spectrum and utilise both types of leadership. Research from business and the military indicates that transformational leadership results in better performances because the leaders are perceived as more effective thus followers increase their efforts.

Transformational leadership was conceptualised as six distinct behaviours:tl

  • Instead of my way or the highway, a TL gets everybody on the same page as they pursue an agreed, group goal
  • A TL will take into account the needs of an individual within the team – some are more easily distracted, some are shyer
  • A developed vision for the future is inspirational motivation – what exactly are we working towards?
  • TL is not soft go out and have fun, don’t worry about the score, high performances are still expected
  • A leader will host creative and challenging training sessions to encourage intellectual stimulation – it will not be the same four drills every night
  • Importantly, the leader will be someone that the team can look to as a role model; the team’s behaviours are reflected in the coach


There were three main hypotheses to my own study.

  1. Personality is related to training behaviour
  2. Transformational leadership is related to training behaviour
  3. Transformational leadership moderates the relationship between personality and training behaviour

To make that a little less, urgh………

  1. Extraversion is related to distractibility (positively)
  2. High performance expectations are related to distractibility (negatively)
  3. High performance expectations will moderate the relationship between distractibility and extraversion – this wasn’t plucked out of thin air, previous research has shown that goal setting can moderate that relationship.

So off I went, full of hope and joy… I sent many, many, many emails, calls, messages, carrier pigeons, smoke signals etc to various sports clubs to gain contact with them. Players filled out four questionnaires: personality, training behaviours, their coach’s leadership, and one about their social desirability. This was there to eliminate individual’s who were giving the socially desirable answer rather than the truth (I never talk in class, I would always hand in money if I found it, you know the ones). And then to verify answers, we had players’ coaches fill out a questionnaire about training behaviours. I had to run ANOVAs to compare athletes and coach’s scores, z-score the variables to eliminate potential nesting effects and to centre them, then finally the main analysis, a moderated hierarchical regression, was performed. It was a heck of a lot of work, and unfortunately my sample size was too small to have much statistical power. But!! The study was important (to me and my degree) to tie these three areas together.

So there ya have it folks – my masters degree, the bane of my life! 


Coaching Tips Cont.

Yesterday we posted the first five coaching tips which can be found here. Now the part you’ve all been waiting for, tips six through to ten. Enjoy!

  1. Three Second Game
    1. Netball and ultimate already use this in their sports, but using a three second rule can be beneficial to improving decision making. Some coaches may argue that intelligent and quick decision making in a game is more of an instinct than something that can be taught – but it’s a poor excuse. Excellent players will have that natural decision making but you can improve it in other players, and it seems that coaches who refuse to believe that can never actually suggest a way to improve it.
    2. In a match (either full team or reduced numbers), have one coach count to three each time the ball is in a player’s possession; players should be moving the ball on ‘two’, and if it’s not been passed by ‘three’ then the opposing team is given a free.
  2. Increase the traffic
    1. This tip is by far my favourite to employ near the end of training on a Friday at 9pm when the team just wants to go home and get ready to party. Have multiple drills running (can be the same or different ones) then once players are adjusted to them, bring the sets closer together so players not only have to concentrate on their own drill, but the other one too to make them aware of the space. Just beware of collisions!
  3. Silence
    1. Good communication skills are vital to teams, but the best partnerships – think the Two-Headed Monster or Xavi and Iniesta – say that they just know where the other player will be and don’t have to talk much
    2. Start a game, let it flow then play it for five minutes in complete silence – no talking to the referee, no calling for passes, no reminding to mark. Any communication results in a free for the opposite team. It forces players to focus and it can make them frustrated (hence why only short bursts should be used).
  4. What can you add?
    1. Being a substitute player can suck – nobody wants to live on the bench. Substitutes might be brought on due to another’s injury, other times to change the game – and how can a coach encourage a substitute to have an instant impact? Ask the substitute ‘what can you add to the game?’ What do you bring to the game that the first team player doesn’t? It provides focus and motivation.
  5. Opportunity vs Time
    1. This isn’t a tip I’ve employed but definitely one I should consider. A Gaelic football coach from the 90s substituted players or had them switch positions early on in the game, and when asked why he didn’t let them have more time to settle into the game, he explained that time had little to do with his decision.
    2. only count opportunities not time.

    3. If a player has 4 opportunities to win a tackle but loses three of them then they need to be changed before their confidence is shattered – it didn’t matter if this occurs over a five minute period or an entire first half. The switch isn’t to say the player isn’t good enough, only that this isn’t your spot today so we’ll try you somewhere else.

A final piece of advice: a coaching session needs to hit the four principles listed below and these tips roughly cover each area. Coaches need to know their sport, be knowledgeable, offer advice, be flexible, but importantly be supportive – no matter what level or age coached.


Coaching Tips

Here at the Mighty Pucks we try to educate you every now and then so it’s about time we gave some practical advice – just in case Therrien is reading this and fancies improving his coaching abilities. I was thrust into coaching a sport I had only played for a couple of years purely because we had nobody else to coach the team then I spent the next two years learning how to balance being a good coach and a good player. These tips come from my own experiences as well as a coaching course I attended – to apply them to a variety of team sports I’ve kept them as general as possible.

  1. Drills vs Games
    1. Drills are there to develop the necessary skills – and it’s great if drills can mimic game settings as closely as possible. However, running games in a training session is crucial for actually putting the technique into practice and having the opportunity to make the right decision, plus it’s less pressure than a competitive game.
  2. Technique to Team Play
    1. We’ve seen players not fulfill their potential despite being heralded as The Next Big Thing, which is sometimes due to their playing style not suiting the team. This is something a coach must rectify; an individual’s technique must be able to fit in with the team.
  3. Cut the Queues
    1. For someone who plays a winter sport in shorts and a t-shirts, this is probably the tip that I really tried to implement when I took over as coach. When running drills, players should not work for 3-4 seconds then rest for another forty seconds. Don’t let queues build up. It’s a very easy problem to fix – duplicate the drill and split the players between it.
    2. The WORK:REST ratio should be implemented for drills. A good rule of thumb is for a jogging drill it should be 1:1; 30 seconds jogging, 30 seconds rest – then for a speed drill 1:4 or 1:5, so 10 second sprinting and 40 seconds rest.
  4. Probables vs Possibles
    1. Whilst most commonly used in rugby, this is a useful tip for cohesion. Have the probable team for the next match play against the “left overs”. This lets the probable match team get acquainted with each other and develop cohesion. It also allows a substitute or secondary player from the possibles team to catch the coach’s eye if they’re putting up a stellar performance against the better players on the probable team. On the flipside, it allows a coach to see who isn’t fitting in with the probables and not really pulling their weight.
    2. However, don’t forget it’s good to play the strongest forwards vs strongest defensive players sometimes too.
  5. Spot and Fix
    1. Perhaps more appropriate at youth/beginner levels, however even experienced players can still have incorrect techniques. There is no such thing as a perfect player. Coaches ought to be able to spot and correct players’ techniques; not correcting them is tantamount to saying “they’ve never been able to do it right” and focusing on improving their fitness instead.

The Coach

A coach is the focal point within sports; they bring out the best results by creating a nurturing environment. A coach is aware of the capabilities of the group and seeks to enhance them through plans, analysis, and studying. Good coaches can assess the game as it develops and understand the importance of tactics – ultimately a coach is a leader.


  • Manager – Assist others and control affairs within a club
  • Leader – Guide decisions, plan, organise, and influence team morale
  • Philosopher – Demonstrate a set of shared beliefs and principles
  • Sports Trainer – Demonstrate knowledge of safe practice and effectively improve athletes’ skills and tactics
  • Selector – Must choose the best and most suitable athletes for a team
  • Psychologist – Deal with various personalities and mental aspects of sport
  • Student – Upgrade knowledge of game and coaching process
  • Communicator – Provide clear instruction and feedback


Types of Coaches

  • Authoritarian – Strong disciplinarian, well organised, good team spirit during wins, may be feared of disliked
  • Business Like – Intelligent, logical, organised, up to date with new techniques, expects 100%, may set goals too high
  • Nice Guy – Well liked, players can take advantage of their easy nature, gets on well with players of similar temperament
  • Intense – Emphasises winning, high anxiety which can transmit to players
  • Easy Going – Very casual, impression they’re not taking the game seriously, may not be prepared to drive team, may be well liked but inadequate