Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Joshua D. Henson

Second Advisor

Dr. Bethany Peters

Third Advisor

Dr. Debra Dean


The role of athletes is to follow the lead of their coaches, captains, and other teammates while working towards the shared goal of team achievement. However, collegiate athletic participation is often attributed to the development of leadership skills. The purpose of this study was to advance the understanding of followership development within athletics. Further, I sought to understand better the perception of student-athletes and coaches on how athletic involvement contributed to the development of followership skills and leadership skills. The study was guided by research questions in which I asked if participants perceived athletic participation contributed to the development of followership skills, what the perceived relationship between leadership and followership skills was, and how coaches and student-athletes perceive the role of athletics on the development of followership skills differently. With the use of qualitative methods, I conducted interviews with collegiate student-athletes and coaches while also reviewing institutional documents. Data analysis revealed six emergent themes relating to followership development through athletic participation: (1) formation of followership, (2) followership skills formed through sport, (3) followership skills enhance life skills, (4) effective followers enable team success, (5) leadership and followership skills are transferable, (6) leaders should promote followership. This study expands and further develops the understanding of followership development. Further, I discussed opportunities for continued followership discussion within the realm of athletics as well as ways to enhance student-athlete experience with intentional followership development.