Courses Menu

The Drive for Five – Elite Sports Leadership

Dublin leads the way

Dublin’s historic victory on Sunday saw the team take home Sam for the 5th year in a row. The match was level at half time and Dublin attacked in the opening minutes of the second with their defence warding off Kerry’s best attempts as the clocked ticked down. The attention quickly turned to the leader of the pack - Jim Gavin and his future with the team. Gavin has had a 90% success rate with the team to date. Strong leadership has long been acknowledged as an essential precursor to success in team sports - but is effective leadership in elite sport as straight-forward as media-coverage would have you believe?

What makes an effective leader in sports?

Pop-science and pop-psychology is rife with leadership and ‘positive’ leadership for sport, for business, for life ...but the reality of effective leadership in sport is complex, multifaceted and often not spoken about honestly and openly for fear of deselection from an individual perspective or displaying weakness from a team perspective. Much of the scientific literature, media attention and speculation discussed at length the attributes of well-known sports leaders, but in reality the only source of information to inform most of these discussions are based entirely on the overt leadership that is publicly displayed. Often these attributes are manufactured, conforming to social norms and social desirability. Often leaders in sport also display many covert attributes (often not so socially-desirable) that remain behind closed doors - only known by the closest inner-circles of the team. This makes Leadership in Sport one of the most fascinating and complicated aspects of sports psychology and coaching.

A balanced approach

From a practitioner’s perspective, it can be useful to view leadership as a process that involves influence over others in a group context in pursuit of shared goals. From this perspective, leadership becomes more about the subtle interplay between group dynamics rather than simplistic view of coaches, captains or managers roles. Effective leadership is a real balance of the art and science of coaching. Often effective leadership in sport involves behaviors and environments that may be considered toxic and far removed from the text-book style ‘leadership’.

We prepare our students for the reality of working effectively in the world of elite sport.

Our BSc Psychology and Coaching students examine different facets of theoretical leadership through the first and second years of their degree study - but the real value of leadership knowledge is knowing how to apply it in practice and the reality of what you are not going to find in a scientific paper or text-book! If you are interested in learning more - click here.

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. Read More Allow Cookies