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! 


Training Plans

I’ve been avoiding writing too much about training plans because for me, they do not work – but now I’m questioning why. Why don’t they work for me? And the answer is probably because I am the queen of excuses. People fall out of their exercise plans for a myriad of reasons so let’s try and build up a resistance so even I can finish one.

  • REST INTERVALS – this is one I can fully get behind! I have more rest days than exercise days, that’s for sure. Your body needs time to grow and heal, rest is encouraged – you should not be doing intense exercise every day. And on days you do exercise, ensure sufficient rests are included, for example thirty seconds to two minute rests during circuit training, including a full two minute rest upon one entire circuit.
  • PARTNERS – if you tell yourself you’re going for a run in the morning, but then the morning arrives and it’s miserable, it is very easy to say “I’ll go tomorrow”. If you’ve already made those plans with a partner, you are less likely to cancel. A partner also provides you with encouragement, motivation – and some healthy competition. Secondly, it eliminates the need to start talking with strangers in the gym to get them to spot for you – you’ve got your partner already, get to the action!
  • TRAINING LOGS – Training logs can be handwritten diary-like entries or there is a plethora of apps available now like Strava or Runkeeper to track your activities. Training logs are excellent for motivating an individual, and on some apps you can arrange for them to keep bugging you until you log in an exercise. A training log can also be used to record effective or ineffective training methods, document illnesses or injury, mood, the training environment (e.g. I did 5 reps then chatted for 20 minutes), and goals…

Speaking of goals, they ought to follow these principles. 2goalsettingAnybody involved with goal setting in any shape or form from teachers and fitness instructors to big businesses likely use SMART goal setting – and usually they have a different acronym to follow – however the meaning is pretty much the same.

  • Specify your goal, rather than I want to be able to run make it “I want to be able to run 5km”
  • Measureable, if you want to get stronger then how will that be measured? Measure number of reps and the weights used
  • Achievable – if you have never ran in your life and set yourself the goal of running the London marathon this year then you’re highly unlikely to achieve it – and any progress you make towards the goal will then feel like a waste of time. Instead, a more achievable goal could be to complete a couch potato to 5km running program
  • Realistic – this ties in to the above one; let’s face it, I am never going to be in the Olympics and setting myself that goal is ridiculous.
  • Time based – Set a time limit and be realistic with it e.g. set yourself the target of six weeks to complete the couch potato to 5km program.

Goals are incredibly important and provide drive and motivation. Their completion increases self-worth, self-efficacy, and goals should progress your fitness too! Further, by following the SMART principles, the fitness plan should be suited to your actual fitness – because a big reason for people dropping out is that they over-estimate their abilities and it becomes too hard.

Never underestimate the power of motivation too – consider why you want to exercise and keep that in your mind each time you want to skip out on a work out.

Ultimately, what I will say is that if you’re hating every minute of it then it’s probably not for you – find something you enjoy, be it swimming, running, zumba, kick boxing, or bowling.