Monday, 3 August 2015

When we Should Use Field Cases

Fidel thought we should use field cases to investigate “when (1) a large variety of factors and relationships are included, (2) no basic laws exist to determine which factors and relationships are important, and (3) when the factors and relationships can be directly observed” (1984, p. 273).

Both business and sports are often good areas to use case research, as all three of those characteristics - multiple factors, unknown factorial importance and observation potential - tend to be present.

As a teacher of leadership, there are some unique characteristics about sport leadership that makes the use of cases particularly useful.

According to Carron and Chelladurai (1981), a key aspect of sports leadership is cohesion, which is dependent upon player and coach relationships... tick each of multiple factors, unknown factorial importance and observation potential.

Additionally, Loehr (2005) stressed that the common theme of effective leadership is the “positive impact that individuals can have on group dynamics relative to a team objective” (p.155). Again, we can see all three factors here.

Further, Bloom, Schinke, & Salmela (1998) and Martens (1990) suggest that player and coach interpersonal dynamics are complex; that managers may inadvertently create problems due to not understanding the player perspective, and be unable to communicate effectively. Yep, all three factors are present.

Explaining the variables - and showing the complex relationships between them - becomes much easier when we use a field case to tell the story. 

However, the use of field cases is not only relevant to sport: business management and leadership in any field are equally suited to exploration using this narrative technique.

And we can later strip field cases down to descriptive cases, and use them to teach the principles to others.

Nothing like recycling :-)


  • Bloom, G. A., Schinke, R. J., & Salmela, John H. (1998). Assessing the development of perceived communication skills by elite basketball coaches and athletes. Coaching and Sport Science Journal, Volume 2, issue 3 (pp. 3-10).
  • Carron, Albert V. & Chelladurai, Packianathan (1981). Cohesiveness as a Factor in Sport Performance. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, June 1981, Volume 16, issue 2 (pp. 21-43).
  • Chelladurai, Packianathan (2006). Human Resource Management in Sport and Recreation (2nd Edition). USA: Human Kinetics.
  • Crust, Lee & Lawrence, Ian (2006). A Review of Leadership in Sport: Implications for Football Management. Athletic Insight , December, 2006m Volume 8, Issue 4 (pp. 28-48).
  • Fidel, R. (1984). The case study method: a case study. Library and Information Science Research (LISR), 1984, Volume 6 (pp. 273-288). 
  • Loehr, J. (2005). Leadership: Full engagement for success. In S. M. Murphy (Ed). The Sports Psych Handbook (pp. 155-170). USA: Human Kinetics
  • Martens, R. (1990). Successful Coaching. Illinois, USA: Leisure Press.

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