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Itä-Suomen yliopisto > Theses > Ethical leadership in everyday sports coaching


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  • Writer(s): Korhonen, Auli;
  • Publisher: Itä-Suomen yliopisto
  • Published: 2021
  • Page count: 75
  • Type: Theses
  • Research method: Experimental
  • Keywords: valmennus, urheilu, johtajuus, eettinen johtajuus, eettinen käyttäytyminen, eettinen sokeus
  • Language: English
  • Written in cooperation with these organizations: Itä-Suomen yliopisto
  • Abstract: Sports reflects and reinforces the predominant norms and values of societies and provides a place to learn life skills. In sports, the moral intensity of ethical decisions can be high. Coaches have been identified as the most critical stakeholders when it comes to impacting the moral behaviour of athletes. The experiences gathered from childhood to adulthood in sports shape the athletes’ knowledge and moral reasoning over the years. Coaches set an example for the athletes in ethical behaviour. The purpose of this study is to produce knowledge for sports management and coaching education by finding out how ethical leadership emerges in sports coaching, and to interpret how the coaches see themselves as ethical leaders. The main goal of the study is to find out good, positive practices in everyday coaching. The findings of the study can be applied in coaching education. The theoretical framework of the study grounds on the definition and theory of ethical leadership, which emerges from a combination between leader behaviours and characteristics engaging in normatively appropriate behaviour and explains the influence of leaders’ ethical behaviour on that of their followers. Effects of ethical leadership have been discussed through the notions of cascading effect and ethical blindness. The framework is put into the context of sports, into the context for learning and for the coach-athlete relationship. The two main research questions are: 1. How does ethical leadership in sports coaching emerge? and 2. What kind of perceptions and interpretations do coaches have about them being ethical leaders? The sub-questions guiding the research process are: 1.1 What kind of ethical issues or challenges do coaches face during the everyday coaching? 1.2 How do the coaches deal with ethical challenges in coaching? 1.3 What kind of support do the coaches need and/or have available when facing ethical dilemmas? 2.1 How do the coaches promote ethical behaviour in their coaching practices? and 2.2 What kind of experiences do the coaches have about their ethical behaviour flowing down to athletes? The study design is a hermeneutic phenomenological study focusing on lived experiences. The target group of the study is Finnish female ball sports coaches. Data has been collected with semi-structured thematic interviews. Five coaches were interviewed using an online conferencing tool and the interviews were transcribed for a six-phase thematic analysis. The results demonstrate how ethical leadership in daily operations emerges in coaching practices, coaching atmosphere, and in coaching environment. Coaches see themselves as ethical leaders through their own activities. Coaching as a function and as a process can be interpreted as interaction. Values and coaching culture are the two catalysts having an influence behind and between the setting, where a coach can be viewed as an individual but also as a part of a network. Self-reflection, two-way feedback, positive reinforcement and continuous self-development interpret the activities of promoting ethical behaviour. Peer-support as well as support from the athletes and clubs are important for coaches in dealing with any ethical issues in practice. Promoting an atmosphere which appreciates open, two-way communication supported by the jointly agreed values demonstrates good leadership and ethical behaviour. Maintaining positive team spirit and pushing the team to do its best, allowing room for mistakes and development, and enabling ways to address concerns lead to a good result in promoting the athletes’ ethical behaviour. In conclusion, three ideas for contributing to the discussion on educational structures in sports are presented. First, it is suggested that peer-groups should be created to discuss the matters and mentoring and mental training should be made available to the coaches. Second, it is suggested that coaches need to be educated to self-reflect and that creating tools and methods to do so should be created for this. Third, it is suggested that a culture is established where intervening is possible at a low threshold without losing face or facing any negative consequences and a tool to do so is found or created.

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