Peer-Based Leadership

Peer-based Leadership in sports has no set in stone definition. There are factors, however, that are common to most definitions. The idea that a leader is a member of the team who influences the team towards achieving team goals is a common one (Watson, Connole & Kadushin 2011 Bucci et al 2012). Another such factor is the idea of two types of leader, formal and informal (Watson, Connole & Kadushin 2011, Bucci et al 2012). A formal Leader is one who is appointed to a position by the coach or the team, e.g. a captain or vice-captain. It has been identified that in most youth sports the formal leaders role is one that is mostly ceremonial or organisational (Gould & Voelker, 2010). The captains in these situations might run the team onto the field or call the coin toss but they don’t have much opportunity to really exercise leadership behaviour. Informal leaders are those who grow to have an impact on team members, mostly through their own experiences (Bucci et al 2012).

Leadership has been identified as one of the more important factors to achieving team success (Bucci et al 2012). Successful leaders can help a coach get messages through to the members of the team, and by setting an example they can provide a framework that the rest of the team can follow (Gould, Voelker & Griffes 2013). So not only are leaders important on the field but they are just as important off the field as well, particularly at training. On the other side of the coin, if a coach does not develop effective leadership in a team we can assume that success will be a lot harder to come by.

Teaching athletes how to be leaders also has an effect on how well they make autonomous decisions, their intrinsic motivation to play the sport and their ability to think critically (Watson, Conolle & Kadushin 2011) If kids are more intrinsically motivated to play sport then they are more likely to become effective players, particularly when you consider they will be better equipped in their decision making. Developing this leadership is important not just for itself, and coaches have a big role in achieving this.

Sports are useful in developing a person, not just athletically but personally and emotionally as well. Vella, Oades and Crowe (2011) found that they can be used to develop life skills with leadership one of these being developed. The leadership skills that a person develops in sport can be used throughout their life so effective development in youth sports has a big effect on people throughout their later life. As such it is important that coaches are aware of this and work to ensure their charges are developing the skills appropriately. However, it is difficult to measure leadership. How does a coach know when he has achieved effective development of these skills? A lot of the research relies on questionnaires or interviews with both athletes and coaches. When faced with youth athletes questionnaires or surveys become even more unreliable. Will a kid say his best friend is the best leader on the team, because they are friends? Will a coach think of a favourite and talk about them and forget about other athletes in his team? Despite these difficulties because of its importance to sport leadership is an area that needs more development. The answer might lie in objective observers performing case studies of teams. This would require a huge amount of time, and manpower to perform well but should be more reliable than relying on the surveys/questionnaires. Once objective measurement and analysis is achieved then coaches will become more effective, not just for their team in the short term, but for their athletes in the long term.


Watson, JC, Connole, I & Kadushin, P, 2011, ‘Developing young athletes: a sport psychology based approach to coaching youth sports’, Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, vol. 2, pp. 113-122, viewed 20/08/2013, Routledge

Loughead, TM, Hardy, J & Eys, MA, 2006, ‘The nature of athlete leadership’, Journal of Sport Behaviour, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 142-158, viewed 13/09/2013, <;

Bucci, J, Bloom, GA, Loughead, TM & Caron, G, 2012, ‘Ice hockey coaches’ perceptions of athlete leadership’, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 243-259, viewed 29/08/2013, Routledge

 Gould, D & Voelker, DK, 2010, ‘Youth sport leadership development: leveraging the sports captaincy experience’, Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, vol. 1, pp. 1-14, viewed 20/08/2013, Routledge

Gould, D, Voelker, DK & Griffes, K, 2013, ‘Best coaching practices for developing team captains’, Sport Psychologist, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 13-26, viewed 16/09/2013, <;

Vella, S, Oades, L & Crowe T, 2011, ‘The role of the coach in facilitating positive youth development: moving from theory to practice’, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, vol. 23, pp. 33-48, viewed 20/08/2013, Routledge



One thought on “Peer-Based Leadership

  1. A good, precise blog, well done. You seem to focus on the development of leadership which is good but make this clear that that is what the blog is about, as opposed to the effect a good/bad leader can have on the team. Try and explore more whether leadership ability is innate or learned, and what it is linked to (personality, self-confidence etc). What makes a good leader? Can you teach someone to be a leader or do you have to find one? What happens if a team doesn’t have a leader in it?
    Keep up the good work in the next blog!

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