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The Supervisory Behavioural Continuum
An applied approach to develop leadership in athletes

Dr Larry W. McDaniel, Allen Jackson, M.Ed., and Dr Laura Gaudet discuss concepts related to developing leadership skills through measures of practical application.

The Supervisory Behavioural Continuum has been proven to play a vital role in the decision-making process. A basic understanding of the Supervisory Behavioural Continuum (SBC), consisting of specific behaviours, is critical in developing practical leadership skills. SBC is the continuum adapted for use in the educational process of developing leadership in coaches and athletes. SBC includes ten specific behaviours; listening, clarifying, encouraging, reflecting, presenting, problem-solving, negotiating, directing, standardizing, and reinforcing. Each behaviour is clustered into the directive, informational, collaborative, and nondirective sub-groups.

We have intended to encourage leadership by involving athletes in experiences to develop independent thinking and leadership skills throughout the coaching process. Dr Larry McDaniel, an Associate Professor at Dakota State University, has developed an array of educational episodes where the Supervisory Behavioural Continuum plays a significant role in this instructional process. Through an understanding of specific behaviours within the continuum, Dr McDaniel discusses methods of supervising athletes and provides examples of different supervisory strategies employed in physical activities and sports settings. After the behaviours used throughout the learning session or practice are introduced and discussed, Dr McDaniel demonstrates the behaviours specific to the "Supervisory Behaviour Continuum." Demonstrations offer opportunities to incorporate "direct informational supervision" and clarify expectations.

Dr McDaniel's instructional methodologies are specific to physical education and athletics. His supervisory strategies include direct informational, collaborative, and nondirective supervision, thus allowing participation in various learning experiences followed by different behaviours augmented by feedback. Learning episodes involving physical activity produce a variety of opportunities for student leaders of various physical activities and sports. These novice leaders are given opportunities to interact with groups of athletes at different levels of human development while capitalizing on the use of the SBC to guide participants toward a greater sense of self and the realization that they too have the potential to be leaders.

In the educational leadership settings developed by Dr McDaniel, students assume the role of instructional leader or coach in charge of the participants. Each learning experience creates a safe environment and encourages student leaders to engage in specific learning episodes. These student leaders are directed (Direct Informational Supervision) to provide a learning or working climate, which minimizes the fear of failure and the fear of injury (mental or physical injury). Through "collaborative leadership", these novice leaders become proficient in the four "D's", directing, demonstrating, providing practice drills, and discussing progress. By partaking in the above processes, the student leaders use the "Supervisory Behavioural Continuum"!

Physical activity and sports skills are presented through demonstrations by the student leader in charge. These demonstrations are accompanied by "directions" and "clarifications" (Direct Informational Supervision) for correct performance. Throughout all of the above activities, appropriate feedback (critical cues to perform the skill) was delivered. While participants practice the skill, the student leader moves along the outer perimeter of the activity, "observing" and assisting athletes in problem-solving and performing skills correctly. Throughout the practice session, the student leader "reinforces" the desired behaviour and performance of skill patterns. The student leader asks participants questions related to the skill and then "listens" to the answers provided by the participants. This allows the student leader information, resulting in quality feedback and encouraging and motivating participants to improve performance. These processes assist in training prospective leaders in the methods related to "Withitness Skills" and "Qualitative Analysis".

After the lesson, the student leader "reflects" on not only the performance of the participants but their leadership performance. This process allows for an objective evaluation of the performance of the student leader. The coach may offer suggestions about how to improve the practice and whether or not pre-determined objectives were realized. Coaches encourage student leaders to offer extrinsic rewards for good behaviour by allowing participants time during the next practice session to participate in a favourite activity. Dr McDaniel also provides on occasion, an unsuspected problem, such as one of the participants "faking" an injury or behaviour problem. These activities provide the student's leader's opportunities to manage unexpected events. A typical practice session would consist of other athletes and a student leader as the coach. These sessions provide an outstanding opportunity for student-athletes to develop leadership skills. These activities are videotaped. This allows the coach to use the learning experience as a teaching tool and an opportunity for timely and appropriate feedback. A video, a powerful learning tool for prospective leaders, allows for the learners to see themselves as others see them. Athletes, as student leaders, need to have a high level of confidence and readiness to assume leadership roles. Student leaders must realize that their decisions may forever impact another student's life. The above processes will provide learning opportunities to grow as reliable individuals who possess the tools necessary to assume leadership roles within their chosen profession.


With training, one can be conscious and competent using the "Supervisory Behavioural Continuum" and employ these strategies in planning various activities. The continuum consists of several different supervisory behaviours that play a significant role in the decision-making process when interacting with a group. Behaviours such as observing, listening, reflecting, standardizing, and clarifying, with supervising strategies involving collaboration and non-direct supervision to guide prospective leaders. These leaders employ direct information and cooperation when working with other learners or athletes. Student leader actions include the full spectrum of behaviours identified in the Supervisory Behaviour Continuum. These young leaders are also given the freedom to engage in other forms of supervision not specified in the Glickman et al. (2004)[5] continuum.

To be an effective leader, one must engage in all aspects of this continuum which gives the coach or leader a method for dealing effectively with everyday issues that may occur within the practice or competition setting and develop workable solutions that contribute to athletic leadership and performance (Block et al. n.d.)[1]. Supervisory skills are an essential part of effective instruction and coaching. By providing the coach with knowing when and with whom to engage appropriate behaviours included in this continuum. Although one may have a preference or leadership philosophy that indicates a personal inclination to supervision, the supervisory continuum is vital to the overall success of any organization. It may be employed in athletics to build leadership skills among athletes and novice coaches.


  1. BLOCK, M. et al. (n.d.) Examining instructional supervision. [WWW] Available from: [Accessed August 5 2007]
  2. BORDEN, L. and PERKINS, D. (1999) Assessing your collaboration: A self evaluation tool. Journal of Extension. 37, 2. [WWW] Available from: [Accessed August 6, 2007]
  3. UNKNOWN (n.d.) Directive Control Supervision [WWW] Available from: [Accessed August 4, 2007]
  4. GLANZ, J. and SULLIVAN, S. (2000) Supervision in Practice: 3 Steps to Improving Teaching and Learning. [WWW] Available from: [Accessed August 5, 2007]
  5. GLICKMAN, C. et al. (2004) SuperVision and Instructional Leadership: A Developmental Approach. Boston: Pearson.
  6. STROOT, S. et al. (1998) Peer assistance and review guidebook. Columbus, OH: Ohio Department of Education. [WWW] Available from: [Accessed August 5, 2007]
  7. WILCOX, S. (1997) Leadership in the classroom. Instructional Development Centre, Queen's University. [WWW] Available from: [Accessed January 14, 2008]

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • McDANIEL, L. et al. (2008) The Supervisory Behavioural Continuum - An applied approach to develop leadership in athletes [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Authors

Larry W. McDaniel Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Dakota State University Madison, SD. USA. Dr McDaniel was a First Team All-American football player (USA Football), a Hall of Fame Athlete, and Hall of Fame Wrestling Coach.

Allen Jackson, M. Ed. is an Assistant Professor of Physical Education and Health at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska (USA) who is well known for his presentations and publications at international conferences focusing on Leadership, Curriculum, and Health.

Laura Gaudet, Ph.D. is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Counselling, Psychology and Social Work at Chadron State College, Chadron NE. Dr Gaudet is well known for her publications and presentations at international conferences focusing on various topics in the field of psychology.