College students die and sometimes these students are student-athletes. This transcendental phenomenological study described and explored the lived leadership experiences, related to the components of Transformational Leadership, of NCAA sports team coaches who led their team following an unexpected death of a student-athlete. No research to date had focused on this leadership phenomenon. Five NCAA sport team head coaches participated in semi-structured interviews to learn more about their coaching leadership experiences during this time of crisis. The study participants shared their intensely emotional and personal leadership experiences of leading and coaching their teams during a time of crisis. There were four main emergent themes with several sub-themes. These were Emotion, Leadership Challenges, Growth as a Leader and University Response and Reaction. Several sub-themes were found to support Bass and Riggio's (2006) four components of the Transformational Leadership theory of Idealized Influence, Individual Consideration, Inspirational Motivation and Intellectual Stimulation. Beyond emergent themes, utilizing Coliazzi's method (1978) of phenomenological analysis, the essence of experience of this coaching leadership phenomenon was created. This study confirmed Bass and Riggio's (2006) components of Transformational Leadership theory as a valid framework to examine both crisis leadership and coaching leadership behaviors in sports. This study increased understanding of the phenomenon of sport team coaches leading their teams following the unexpected death of a student-athlete, while providing insights and strategies for coaches and athlete administrators to utilize in the future.


Julie Carlson

Committee Member

Kevin Love

Committee Member

Ray Allen

Date of Degree




Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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