The understanding of leadership styles accumulates through thorough work with case studies. Researchers can analyze texts, films, real-life cases, and personal experiences to better know the possible ways of leadership styles differentiation. This essay suggests that the movie Coach Carter presents an excellent ground for the empirical application of leadership theories (Carter, 2005). This paper will state the argument that in the face of Ken Carter, viewers will see quite an effective manager whose strategy improved the collective’s performance and encouraged young basketball players to gain success.
Synopsis of the Film
This film tells the story of basketball coach Ken Carter who tried to implement his views on training and coaching in the quite unsuccessful high school team based in Richmond, California. Before Coach Carter entered the job, the team had an awful performance coupled with bad team chemistry. Carter significantly changed team policies and approaches to training. The fundamental demand was the decent studying performance of team players. In order to stay in the team, they needed to sit in the first rows during classes and get marks more than C on average. Although this demand was met with anger by players, they agreed to sign contracts.
Coach Carter’s strategy of team strict discipline and his contract requirements drastically changed basketball team results. They did not lose during the regular season and won an important tournament. However, the reality posed new challenges to the team’s final success. Coach Carter realized that his players did not follow contract requirements by skipping classes and getting unsatisfactory grades. Such disrespect of team policies made Carter close the gym and cancel all basketball games. Here one can see the decisiveness of Ken Carter in his actions when the situation calls for determination.
One of the main storylines of the film is the dichotomy between Ken Carter and other people around him, especially the local community. They opposed the coach’s decisions arguing that learning is not important for future athletes. Nevertheless, when Ken Carter refused to continue his work as a head coach if his demands were not met, the team supported him and put effort to get successful results in studying. As a result, basketball players got good grades and played in the championship quarterfinals but lost the game. Although Richmond was eliminated at an early stage, Coach Carter was proud of his team and their persistence. The film ends with the text information that six players went to college, and five of them won scholarships.
Coach Carter’s Leadership Style
In fact, the style of leadership performed by Coach Carter is hard to define. He demonstrates a powerful set of skills based on directiveness, self-confidence, and sensitivity. At the same time, the most suitable definition for Carter’s personality is the autocratic kind of leadership. Dyczkowska and Dyczkowski (2018) indicate that “autocratic leaders make vital decisions on their own” and “[they] prefer to establish strict regulations, control processes and remain in formal, professional relationships with their subordinates” (p. 195). Dyczkowska and Dyczkowski (2018) also admit that autocratic leaders prefer giving clear and defined instructions to their subordinates. These characteristics are greatly applied to Coach Carter’s leadership style. Carter’s initial contract strictly defined what he expected from the players, and all the requirements in the initial list were created by Carter on his own.
Risk Factors of Autocratic Leadership
The issues related to autocratic leadership could be analyzed outside the context of the film. A lack of contact with subordinates results in a decreased understanding of collective preferences (Dyczkowska & Dyczkowski, 2018). The information delivered to the leader is distorted and subjective because such type of leadership does not imply opinion exchange. Moreover, autocratic leadership negatively influences the motivation of employees (Dyczkowska & Dyczkowski, 2018). The reason is that an autocratic environment makes the team members fear punishment, so they increase their compliance at the expense of their creativity.
In the case of Coach Carter, he combined his high authority in the team and attention to players’ opinions. In practice, Ken Carter did not have an option to stay a fully democratic leader. In this case, the team denied all his contract requirements and promoted their incorrect views on basketball training. Carter overcame all the risk factors associated with his type of leadership and achieved almost the maximum result from the human material he had.
Communication strategy Employed by Coach Carter
Communication in sports, especially in team sports, is strikingly different than in management or social life. The main peculiarity is that coaches use verbal and non-verbal skills to deliver information to the team. It makes communication more multidimensional in the sense of the variety of ways to express feelings and thoughts. Mahender and Mahesh (2016) identify non-verbal skills in sports as “facial expressions, eye contact, hand signals, the whistle, and other body language signs” (p. 1). Ken Carter builds his training strategy around these non-verbal skills by the active movement and facial expression during games and training.
Nevertheless, Ken Carter had become a great coach because of his ability to combine his non-verbal communication abilities with his speaking and listening skills. From the very beginning, Ken Carter insisted that players called him “Sir” and were polite in their communication with Carter. During coaching, he sincerely tells what his demand and expectations of the team’s performance are. He also inspires his players to achieve their dreams by delivering expressive speeches.
Conflict Resolution and Response to Ethics and Diversity in Coach Carter
Ken Carter came to Richmond high school when the team discipline was at an extremely low level. Carter aimed to mitigate the influence of counterproductive behavior. The first tool to solve tension was the option for all players to leave the team if they could not fulfill all the coach’s requirements. This approach has some common grounds with libertarian contract law, which allows community members to leave it in cases of disagreement with the contract’s rules.
Coach Carter also tried to eliminate the team’s losing culture through bargaining. He realized that the team members have different views on the style of tactics and training. Therefore, he tried to stand firmly on his ideal of relevant coaching. In the case when players did not follow his requirements, Carter was ready to act decisively against counterproductive behavior. For example, when Carter found that players did not follow his demands in studying, he swiftly canceled all the games. Such self-positioning raised Carter’s authority in the player’s eyes and helped him solve conflicts effectively.
Finally, the major problem for Ken Carter was the great diversity of the team’s players. The team consisted of teenagers with a criminal past, from dysfunctional families, and at the same time very purposeful players. However, with the right approach, diversity issues can contribute to the final success. As Tamunomiebi and Ehior (2019) indicate, “diversity is a source of creativity and innovation that can provide the potential for future development and competitive advantage” (p. 860). For example, Carter’s son Damian and Timo Cruz are entirely different personalities in their views and approaches to life. Through discipline and informal links with the players, Carter was able to find the right formula for connecting so many different people in one place.
Personal Opinion on Coach Carter’s Approach
Coach Carter has built an effective training system in a quite unsuccessful team that allowed them to achieve excellent results in high school basketball. In fact, I liked Carter’s desire to include good studying results in the contract. It brought more discipline to the team and changed players’ attitudes to basketball. The collective atmosphere before and after Ken Carter took the role of the coach is significantly different. In my opinion, it was Carter’s personality that contributed to the huge improvement in the team’s performance since almost any other coach could not have shown so much resilience and self-confidence.
Carter’s leadership style has greatly suited a high school team like Richmond. However, in my opinion, such a leadership style is not appropriate for professional sports teams. Professional players might not appreciate Carter’s autocratic style and change the team to a more democratic one in coaching style. Also, professional players could specifically lose matches in order to make the team’s owner fire the unpleasant coach. These processes can also happen in ordinary life when employees have the possibility to find another job quickly. Therefore, Ken Carter’s approach may be effective in coaching young players, while this leadership style should be modified in ordinary life.
The movie Coach Carter presents the leadership style employed by the head coach Ken Carter that combines some autocratic techniques with sensitivity to players’ opinions and diversity issues. The film is a great ground to explore the possible limitations and advantages of such an approach. Although it brings victories and benefits to the young players in high school or college, Carter’s leadership style should be modified at a professional level or in other industries.
Carter, T. (2005). Coach Carter [Film]. MTV Films.
Dyczkowska, J., & Dyczkowski, T. (2018). Democratic or autocratic leadership style? Participative management and its links to rewarding strategies and job satisfaction in SMEs. Athens Journal of Business & Economics, 4(2), 193-218.
Eys, M., & Kim, J. (2017). Team building and group cohesion in the context of sport and performance psychology. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Web.
Mahender, G., Mahesh. B. (2016). Effective communication skills for sports coaches. Anveshana’s International Journal of Research in Regional Studies, Law, Social Sciences, Journalism and Management Practices, 1(11), 1-3.
Tamunomiebi, M. D., & Error, I. E. (2019). Diversity and ethical issues in the organizations. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 9(2), 839-864.