Fun, Failure, and Fulfillment: A Case-Study Approach to Informal Athlete Leadership in Minor League Baseball

in The Sport Psychologist
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD $68.00

1 year subscription

USD $90.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD $129.00

2 year subscription

USD $168.00

The purpose of this study was to crystalize a single case of informal athlete leadership in Minor League Baseball (MiLB) during the 2015 season. Teammates and coaches of a Class A MiLB team voted for the highlighted participant as the best athlete leader on the team. The first author conducted 8 individual semistructured interviews with the participant, 2 coaches, and 5 teammates. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis and open-ended prompts based on leadership and athlete literature, the first author learned about the highlighted participant’s emergence as a leader on a team without formal leadership titles. Findings revealed 4 main themes: navigating personal on-the-field failure, fulfilling others’ expectations, helping teammates manage emotions, and fostering a fun working environment. Findings also indicated 1 foundational theme, having a philosophy, that grounded the 4 main themes. Implications for athlete leadership development and future directions for athlete leadership research are discussed.

Imholte is a doctoral student in the counseling psychology program, Springfield College, Springfield, MA. Blanton is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. McAlarnen is with the Dept. of Human Performance, Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN.

Imholte (imholtephil@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
The Sport Psychologist
Article Sections
References
  • AmbadyN. & RosenthalR. (1993). Half a minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64(3) 431441. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.64.3.431

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • AvolioB.J.GardnerW.L.WalumbwaF.O.LuthansF. & MayD.R. (2004). Unlocking the mask: A look at the process by which authentic leaders impact follower attitudes and behaviors. Leadership Quarterly 15(6) 801823. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2004.09.003

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Baseball Reference. (2018). Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved from https://www.baseball-reference.com/

  • BaumgartnerT.A. & HensleyL. (2012). Conducting & reading research in kinesiology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

  • BensonA.J.EysM.SuryaM.DawsonK. & SchneiderM. (2013). Athletes’ perceptions of role acceptance in interdependent sport teams. The Sport Psychologist 27(3) 269280. doi:10.1123/tsp.27.3.269

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BensonA.J.SuryaM. & EysM.A. (2014). The nature and transmission of roles in sport teams. Sport Exercise and Performance Psychology 3(4) 228. doi:10.1037/spy0000016

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BrockiJ.M. & WeardenA.J. (2006). A critical evaluation of the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in health psychology. Psychology and Health 21(1) 87108. doi:10.1080/14768320500230185

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BucciJ.BloomG.A.LougheadT.M. & CaronJ.G. (2012). Ice hockey coaches’ perceptions of athlete leadership. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 24(3) 243259. doi:10.1080/10413200.2011.636416

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • CallowN.SmithM.J.HardyL.ArthurC.A. & HardyJ. (2009). Measurement of transformational leadership and its relationship with team cohesion and performance level. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 21(4) 395412. doi:10.1080/10413200903204754

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • CharmazK. (2011). A constructivist grounded theory analysis of losing and regaining a valued self. In F.J. WertzK. CharmazL.M. McMullenR. JosselsonR. Anderson & E. McSpadden (Eds.) Five ways of doing qualitative analysis (pp. 165204). New York, NY: Guilford.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ChelladuraiP. (2007). Leadership in sports. In G. Tenenbaum & R.C. Eklund (Eds.) Handbook of sport psychology (Vol. 3 pp. 113135). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ChelladuraiP. (2012). Models and measurement of leadership in sport. In G. TenenbaumR.C. Eklund & A. Kamata (Eds.) Measurement in sport and exercise psychology (pp. 433442). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ChelladuraiP. & RiemerH.A. (1998). Measurement of leadership in sport. In J.L. Duda (Ed.) Advances in sport and exercise psychology measurement (pp. 227253). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technologies.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ChelladuraiP. & SalehS.D. (1980). Dimensions of leader behavior in sports: Development of a leadership scale. Journal of Sport Psychology 2(1) 3445. doi:10.1123/jsp.2.1.34

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • CopeC.J.EysM.A.BeauchampM.R.SchinkeR.J. & BosselutG. (2011). Informal roles on sport teams. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology 9(1) 1930. doi:10.1080/1612197X.2011.563124

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • CotterillS.T. (2013). Team psychology in sports: Theory and practice. Hove, UK: Routledge.

  • CotterillS.T. & FransenK. (2016). Athlete leadership in sport teams: Current understanding and future directions. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology 9(1) 116133. doi:10.1080/1750984X.2015.1124443

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • CreswellJ.W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • DuanJ.LiC.XuY. & WuC.H. (2017). Transformational leadership and employee voice behavior: A Pygmalion mechanism. Journal of Organizational Behavior 38(5) 650670. doi:10.1002/job.2157

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DupuisM.BloomG.A. & LougheadT.M. (2006). Team captains’ perceptions of athlete leadership. Journal of Sport Behavior 29(1) 6078.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • EhrmannJ. & JordanG. (2011). InsideOut coaching: How sports can transform lives. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

  • EllingsonL.L. (2008). Engaging crystallization in qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. doi:10.4135/9781412991476

  • EysM.A.LougheadT.M. & HardyJ. (2007). Athlete leadership dispersion and satisfaction in interactive sport teams. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 8(3) 281296. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2006.04.005

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FilhoE.GershgorenL.BasevitchI.SchinkeR. & TenenbaumG. (2014). Peer leadership and shared mental models in a college volleyball team: A season long case study. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology 8(2) 184203. doi:10.1123/jcsp.2014-0021

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FransenK.VanbeselaereN.De CuyperB.Vande BroekG. & BoenF. (2014). The myth of the team captain as principal leader: Extending the athlete leadership classification within sport teams. Journal of Sports Sciences 32(14) 13891397. PubMed ID: 24660668 doi:10.1080/02640414.2014.891291

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GigesB. & Van RaalteJ. (2012). Special issue of the sport psychologist case studies in sport psychology introduction. The Sport Psychologist 26(4) 483484. doi:10.1123/tsp.26.4.483

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GouldD.VoelkerD.K. & BlantonJ. (2012). Future directions in youth leadership research. In R. Schinke & S. Hanrahan (Eds.) Sport for development peace and social justice (pp. 163180). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GreenleafR.K. (1970). The servant as leader. Newton Centre, MA: Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

  • GreenleafR.K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York, NY: Paulist Press.

  • HawkinsK. & TolzinA. (2002). Examining the team/leader interface: Baseball teams as exemplars of postmodern organizations. Group & Organization Management 27(1) 97112. doi:10.1177/1059601102027001006

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • HornT.S.LoxC. & LabradorF. (2010). The self-fulfilling prophecy theory: When coaches’ expectations become reality. In J.M. Williams (Ed.) Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (pp. 81105). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • HouseR.J. (1971). A path goal theory of leader effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly 16 321339. doi:10.2307/2391905

  • HouseR.J. (1996). Path-goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory. Leadership Quarterly 7(3) 323352. doi:10.1016/S1048-9843(96)90024-7

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • JudgeT.A.BonoJ.E.IliesR. & GerhardtM.W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of Applied Psychology 87(4) 765. PubMed ID: 12184579 doi:10.1037//0021-9010.87.4.765

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KellettP. (1999). Organisational leadership: Lessons from professional coaches. Sport Management Review 2(2) 150171. doi:10.1016/S1441-3523(99)70094-X

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LincolnY.S. & GubaE.G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

  • LordR.G.De VaderC.L. & AlligerG.M. (1986). A meta-analysis of the relation between personality traits and leadership perceptions: An application of validity generalization procedures. Journal of Applied Psychology 71(3) 402. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.71.3.402

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LougheadT.M. & HardyJ. (2005). An examination of coach and peer leader behaviors in sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 6(3) 303312. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2004.02.001

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LougheadT.M.HardyJ. & EysM.A. (2006). The nature of athlete leadership. Journal of Sport Behavior 29(2) 142158.

  • LyleJ. (2002). Sports coaching concepts: A framework for coaches’ behaviour. London, UK: Routledge.

  • MackenzieK.D. & HouseR. (1978). Paradigm development in the social sciences: A proposed research strategy. Academy of Management Review 3(1) 723. doi:10.5465/AMR.1978.4296297

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • NorthouseP.G. (2012). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • PaunonenS.V.LönnqvistJ.VerkasaloM.LeikasS. & NissinenV. (2006). Narcissism and emergent leadership in military cadets. Leadership Quarterly 17(5) 475486. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2006.06.003

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PescosolidoA.T. (2002). Emergent leaders as managers of group emotion. Leadership Quarterly 13(5) 583599. doi:10.1016/S1048-9843(02)00145-5

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PriceM.S. & WeissM.R. (2011). Peer leadership in sport: Relationships among personal characteristics, leader behaviors, and team outcomes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 23(1) 4964. doi:10.1080/10413200.2010.520300

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RitchieJ.LewisJ.NichollsC.M. & OrmstonR. (Eds.). (2013). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RubinH.J. & RubinI.S. (1995). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • ShieldsD.L. & GardnerD.E. (1997). The relationship between leadership behaviors and group. Journal of Psychology 131(2) 196210. doi:10.1080/00223989709601964

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SmithB. & McGannonK.R. (2018). Developing rigor in qualitative research: Problems and opportunities within sport and exercise psychology. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology 11(1) 101121. doi: 10.1080/1750984X.2017.1317357

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SmithJ.A. & OsbornM. (2007). Interpretive phenomenological analysis. In J.A. Smith (Ed.) Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (Vol. 2 pp. 5379). London, UK: Sage.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SmollF.L. & SmithR.E. (1989). Leadership behaviors in sport: A theoretical model and research paradigm. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 19(18) 15221551. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1989.tb01462.x

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SparkesA. & SmithB. (2014). Qualitative research methods in sport exercise and health. London, UK: Routledge.

  • StakeR.E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • StakeR.E. (2005). Qualitative case studies. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.) The Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 433466). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SteinR.T.HoffmanL.R.CooleyS.J. & PearseR.W. (1979). Leadership valence: Modeling and measuring the process of emergent leadership. Crosscurrents in Leadership 5 126.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • TracyS.J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry 16(10) 837851. doi:10.1177/1077800410383121

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • VealeyR.S. (2005). Coaching for the inner edge. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

  • VoelkerD.K.GouldD. & CrawfordM.J. (2011). Understanding the experience of high school sport captains. The Sport Psychologist 25(1) 4766. doi:10.1123/tsp.25.1.47

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WitnauerW.D.RogersR.G. & Saint OngeJ.M. (2007). Major League Baseball career length in the twentieth century. Population Research and Policy Review 26(4) 371386. PubMed ID: 21976782 doi:10.1007/s11113-007-9038-5

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ZaccaroS.J.RittmanA.L. & MarksM.A. (2001). Team leadership. Leadership Quarterly 12(4) 451483. doi:10.1016/S1048-9843(01)00093-5

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
Article Metrics
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 85 85 51
Full Text Views 33 33 14
PDF Downloads 17 17 8
Altmetric Badge
PubMed
Google Scholar