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  • The Sports Leadership Playbook: Principles and Techniques for Coaches and Captains by Mike Voight
  • Paul M. McInerny
Voight, Mike. The Sports Leadership Playbook: Principles and Techniques for Coaches and Captains. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Pp. 332. Appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $35.00 pb.

A former collegiate athlete and coach, Mike Voight is an associate professor at Central Connecticut State University, a leadership coach, sports team consultant, performance consultant, and author of mental-toughness training books. In The Sports Leadership Playbook: Principles and Techniques for Coaches and Captains, he packages his experiences and insights into a single work, whose purpose is to inculcate leadership development as an ingrained tradition within an athletic program’s culture.

Voight states in the introduction that his work is unique in utilizing leadership scholarship as well as sports and business practices to develop his approach for athletic teams. Main leadership theories discussed in academia and business today—such as emotional intelligence and transformational leadership, among others—are articulated through a sports perspective throughout the book. The author cites academic scholars, business gurus, notable athletic personalities, and others to build his case. More than a hundred inspirational breakout quotes—including from Jim Collins, Vince Lombardi, Daniel Goleman, John Maxwell, Mike Krzyzewski, Jack Welsch, Mia Hamm, Jeff Janssen, and Peter Drucker—are scattered throughout the 260 pages of text—so many their impact eventually is deluded.

The Sports Leadership Playbook achieves the goal of placing athletic leadership development within an intellectual yet practical framework, which distinguishes it from many of the competing books on the market. The book challenges coaches, players, and others to ingrain leadership development as a permanent component of a team’s culture. Starting in the off-season, teams are to begin the cycle of continuous leadership development.

Voight’s first section, “Situational Leadership,” examines the unique challenges of coaching millennials and makes the case that coaching styles of the past no longer work. The days of dictatorial coaches are over. The author does not lament the traits of millennials but realistically depicts them as coachable opportunities. For example, while millennials want more say in how a team is run and the program shaped, they also can be challenged [End Page 461] with greater responsibilities. Increased team communication is critical, as well as challenging millennials with more accountability, structure, goal setting, and group interaction as some of the tactics used to capitalize on their tendencies. The predominate traits of the millennials can thus become building blocks as shapers of their team culture.

Subsequent sections and their emphasis are as follows: “The Artful Science of Leadership: Theory, Research and Application” addresses the practical models and theories of leadership and how they apply to athletics; “Tools of the Trade: Talents, Techniques and Tactics” focuses on the training process for sports leadership; and “Building Teams Who Lead and Follow” touches on followership theories and ends with practical implementation to achieve the cohesiveness and compatibility needed for solid team dynamics.

Universal themes, supported by scholarship and business practices, unify the sections. The Sports Leadership Playbook underscores the importance of the coach’s role by his/her development of players’ skills, especially that of leadership. Voight encourages coaches to engage athletes in the building of the program and defining its vision. Leadership is approached as a deliberate process, rather than as a role or position, and focuses on relationship building. Beginning with self-leadership, leadership can be learned by anyone and is the responsibility of all team members. As a team mechanism, establishment of leadership councils are encouraged for an environment fostering continuous dialog; critical to implementing the cultural embrace of leadership is continuous reflection. To augment reflection, Voight includes six appendices that include a leadership-style survey that he developed, a leadership skill-set assessment, a list of reflective questions, and other guides, including an implementation timetable.

Voight’s book artfully builds and articulates the case for a culture of leadership. While the book is prescriptive with a broad appeal, each team’s implementation will be unique to its situation. The work employs an enthusiastic prose, reflecting Voight’s experiences and perhaps serving as a team “pep” talk for the development that lies ahead.

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pp. 461-462
Launched on MUSE
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