Document Type



Doctor of Education



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Brenda Light Bredemeier, PhD


Brenda Bredemeier, Chair

David Shields

Wolfgang Althof

Marvin Berkowitz


Considerable attention is directed toward the sporting orientations, attitudes and behaviors of athletes in competitive sports. Coach behavior is also a source of interest as it pertains to performance, satisfaction, and motivation of athletes who play for them. Codification of coach behavior as leadership style and the relation to sportspersonship attitudes and behaviors in athletes is understudied. This exploratory study investigated the relationship between intercollegiate coaches’ servant leadership and their athletes’ ethically-related sport orientations and behaviors. Participants included NCAA DIII soccer coaches and their athletes. Coaches were asked demographic information and their cooperation in forwarding a survey link to their athletes. Athletes (N=274) were invited to complete questionnaires to measure their perceptions of coach servant leadership, how they act in sports, and how they think about competition. As a measure of sport behavior, cautions and ejections (yellow and red card) aggregates for teams (N=17) issued throughout the season were collected from institutional websites of participating coaches. A series of correlations were conducted to determine the relation between perceived coach servant leadership, sportspersonship and contesting orientations, and sporting behavior (yellow/red card aggregates). Findings suggest perceived coaches’ servant leadership relates to their athletes’ ethically-related sport orientations and behaviors in three important ways. First, a dimension of servant leadership, the service sub-scale, was positively related to the moral dimensions of sportspersonship (e.g., respect for rules and officials, and concern for opponents). Second, perceived coach servant leadership was positively related to a partnership contesting orientation, which is one of the social psychological factors known to best predict sportspersonship. Third, servant leadership was found to be negatively related to un-sportsperson-like behavior as reflected in team yellow/red card aggregates; i.e., teams tended to accumulate fewer yellow/red cards when their coach was perceived a servant leader.

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