Perceptions of leadership behavior and the relationship to athletes among ­Scandinavian coaches

Eystein Enoksen Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Norway
Per Göran Fahlström Linnaeus University, Sweden
Bjørn Tore Johansen University of Agder, Norway
Carl-Axel Hageskog Linnaeus University, Sweden
Jens Behrend Christensen University of Aarhus, Denmark
Rune Høigaard University of Agder, Norway

From the top: Eystein Enoksen, Per Göran Fahlström, Bjørn Tore Johansen, Carl-Axel Hageskog, Jens Behrend Christensen, Rune Høigaard
From the top: Eystein Enoksen, Per Göran Fahlström, Bjørn Tore Johansen, Carl-Axel Hageskog, Jens Behrend Christensen, Rune Høigaard


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between the perceptions of leadership behavior and coach–athlete relationship in Scandinavian coaches. A secondary purpose was to investigate if differences in national sport education, level of coaching and coaching experiences in individual or team sport have an influence on leadership behavior and coach–athlete relationships. One hundred and forty nine coaches at international level or national top level from Denmark, Norway and Sweden participated in this study (134 male and 15 female). The methods of investigation were Chelladurai’s Leadership scale of sport (LSS) (Chelladurai & Saleh, 1980) and Jowett’s coach–athlete relationship perspective (Jowett & Wyllemann, 2006). The results showed that the most frequent self-reported behavioral components between the described coach–athlete relationship subscales and preferred leadership behavior among Scandinavian top-level coaches were training and instructions, positive feedback and democratic behavior, respectively. The study also revealed a positive coach–athlete relationship between (1) commitment and training and instruction, (2) positive feedback and social support, and (3) between complementarities and training and instruction behavior. A significant difference was found between top coaches in Denmark and Sweden on commitment and complementarity, and more experienced coaches used significantly more training and instruction and social support in their coaching than did less experienced coaches. Coaches in team sports reported more autocratic behavior and less democratic behavior than coaches in individual sports.

Click here to read this peer reviewed article  in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 5 2014

About the Authors

EYSTEIN ENOKSEN (Ph.D.) is a Professor in sport science at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (Norges idrettshøgskole). His Ph.D. thesis focused on talent development in sport with a special focus on drop-out reasons among talented track and field athletes. He has written more than 40 books and his research work includes articles in training science in elite sport, sport coaching and sport leadership. He holds for the moment a personal trainer position for the Norwegian elite sprinters and hurdlers. In 2013 he was awarded “Trainer of the year in track and field”.

PG FAHLSTRÖM is Associate professor in sport science at Linnaeus University. His PhD thesis was in pedagogics and focused on coaches in ice hockey. He holds an academic elite coach diploma and a degree as physical education teacher. He is the President European Association for Sport Management. His research interests include sport coaching, sport leadership, talent identification and talent development in sports. His has recently finished a report on the elite athletes’ perceptions of the end of the sport career. He is currently leading two research projects funded by Swedish Sports Confederation, “Sport choice and specialisation” and “Good sport environments”.

BJØRN TORE JOHANSEN is Associate Professor in sport psychology at the Department of Health and Sport Sciences at University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway. He has a PhD on the topic “Cognition in Orienteering” from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo back in 1997. He has a background from orienteering as a coach on the national team. He has also been a coach and referee in soccer for more than 15 years. Johansen is currently leader of a research project on the role of top-class referees in Norway.

CARL-AXEL HAGESKOG is professor in Sport Science at Linnaeus University. His experience from tennis as the Swedish Davis Cup Coach 1985-2002 and personal coach for Mats Wilander, Anders Jarryd and Magnus Larsson, all world top players in the period, qualified him for professor on artistic basis. He has got the highest honours of the Sport in The Prince Plaque and Medal in Gold from The King of Sweden. He has an academic degree as physical education teacher. His main focus is building the bridge between the academy and sport – Academy meets Sport.

JENS BEHREND CHRISTENSEN is Associate Professor in sport science, Department of Public Health, University of Aarhus. His main topics include track and field, talent identification, talent development and mentoring in sport. His newest research includes New Trends in Sport, the events and the future developments. He is former National Coach in Combined Events and expert commentator in athletics at the Olympic Games for TV 2 Denmark.

RUNE HØIGAARD (Ph.D.) is Professor in Sport and Exercise Psychology, at the Department of Public Health, Sport and Nutrition at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. In addition, he holds a position as a visiting Professor at the University in Nordland, Bodø, Norway. He has published several books, book chapters, and over 30 refereed articles on sports psychology, group dynamics, coaching, and counseling. He is a former track and field athlete and coach, and now a dedicated recreational cyclist.

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