Transformational Leadership Perceptions of NCAA Collegiate Athletes and Non-Athletes


  • Dr. Ryan Thomas Conners University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Dr. Robbie Cochrum Tennessee state university
  • Bruce Lund Middle Tennessee State University
  • Jorge Acebes Sanchez Universidad Francisco de Vitoria


SLPI, transformational leadership, intercollegiate, NCAA


Collegiate sports participation is often anecdotally touted to improve leadership development in college students, yet current research has yet to confirm this belief with any consistency or with any consideration for potential leadership differences between NCAA competitive divisions. Therein, the purpose of this study was to measure transformational leadership in NCAA athletes and non-athletes across three competition levels. METHODS: Collegiate student athletes (N = 660) non-athlete peers (N = 794) were recruited and asked to complete the Student Leadership Practices Inventory (SLPI). RESULTS: When controlling for student activity, athletes scored higher on transformational leadership practice than non-athletes on 4 of the 5 SLPI subscales, including Challenge the process (M = 22.90; 22.32), Inspire a true vision (M = 22.45; 21.88), Encourage the heart (M = 23.56; 22.60), and Enable others to act (M = 21.76; 21.27), respectively. Athletes at the D1 level also scored higher than non-athletes in the Model the way subscale (M = 24.01; 23.29). No significant difference was found between athlete competition level on any SLPI subscale. CONCLUSION: Collegiate athletes demonstrate higher levels of perceptual transformational leadership practice than non-athletes, but leadership practice is not affected by NCAA competition level. Despite this leadership advantage, athletes must be given and provided formal leadership opportunities and feedback for leadership experiences to develop beyond the athletic arena. Athletic programs should consider promotion and implementation of leadership training as part of the requirements for participation in collegiate athletics.  


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