Jul 13, 2022 • 3 min read
When you hear the name Pat Summitt you probably think of University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball and her legendary coaching career. You may also think about her coaching style and why she was so effective. 1,098 career wins later, she acquired the most wins in college basketball history at the time of her retirement. Wins aside, Pat Summitt was known for her tough love coaching style which resulted in 8 National Championships, but didn’t come without sternness. As a coach, Pat would kick players out of practice, hold extra workouts after losses, and even closed the team’s locker room one month because she didn’t believe they were working hard enough to “pay the rent.”
So, what would you say Pat Summit’s coaching style is?
According to the studies of Lewin, Llippet & White in 1939, a Leadership Framework was established after looking at different leadership traits. Within this framework, the three different leadership styles that made it up were: Autocratic, Democratic & Laissez-Faire.
The best leadership style is still up for debate, even though in the study the democratic leadership style was the preferred. It’s worth acknowledging that leadership/coaching styles can evolve. Now, let’s breakdown each of these leadership styles and perhaps get you, the reader, the coach thinking, about what your coaching style is.
Autocratic: “I’m the coach, I make the call.”
Autocratic coaching is a singular control style of leadership. The coach holds all the power and is the soul decision maker. Pat Summitt would be an example of an autocratic leader because her way was the way. A lot of autocratic coaches are incredibly successful and most professional coaches show this style.
Democratic: “What do you all think could have made practice better?”
Democratic coaching is a style that encourages feedback from players and takes into account all points of views. This type of coach seeks feedback while at the same time establishing the power as the final decision maker.
Laissez-Faire: “If you want to play tomorrow, that’s up to you.”
A laissez-faire coach allows everyone else to make the decisions and calls. Most of the time this style of coaching gives players full control, which if well communicated can encourage players to make decisions for themselves, but if poorly communicated can lack any direction and control.
[READ MORE: How to Select the Right Coach for Your Young Athlete]
You may be thinking, I feel like my style is a blend of all three. That’s totally fine. Coaching/leadership styles evolve and maybe one style fits with one team while another one suits a different squad. This article was designed to help coaches or any person in a leadership role begin to think about their leadership style. Looking for more coaching resources? Check out our Coaches’ Corner!