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Organizational Behavior Analysis: Japanese Soccer School


Japanese Soccer School A is a world-class training and learning facility that pioneered soccer coaching in Japan and has a wide net of schools and training facilities in the country, with the total number of offices being 154 and 46 franchise licensees. The school is currently training over 21,000 students, with 7,000 more being trained in associated franchises. The company features 173 including 159 coaches, and has seen great success in providing a stepping stone for future athletes’ careers. The school trained six players that participated at the 2016 Rio Olympics, three – at the 2018 World Cup, and six – at the 2019 Asia cup. The company is a dominant force on the market, holding the first place in the number of pupils and income in Japan.

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At the same time, Soccer School A is experiencing a gradual fall from its peak. It is slowly losing market share and has issues with recruiting and retaining talented soccer trainers, while its current roster of employees is slowly aging. The purpose of this paper is to explore the elements of organizational theory and how it is applied in the organization of choice.

Theoretical Framework

Motivation Theories

All of the major motivation theories up to this point could be classified in two large groups, those being content and process motivation theories (Saylor Academy, 2015). Content theories focus on factors that motivate human behavior, thus being extrinsic in nature, whereas process motivation theories seek to explain how behavior is motivated internally. The selected needs theory from the course that would be used to evaluate the internal practices of Soccer School A is Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory (Saylor Academy, 2015). One of the key peculiarities of the theory is the separation of motivating and demotivating factors, as well as the evaluation of the levels of impact that they have (Saylor Academy, 2015):

  • Hygiene factors. These are the factors that control and minimize the lack of satisfaction. They are not directly tied with how the job is performed, but rather with externalized factors that may have an impact on the process as well as the physical, social, and psycho-emotional perception of the job (Saylor Academy, 2015).
  • Motivational factors. Achievement, work itself, and the perception of recognition are identified as internal factors that could be influenced from the outside. At the same time, increases in responsibility and opportunities for advancement are inherently external factors (Saylor Academy, 2015).

Primary criticisms of the theory include the fact that it is situational, and that the correlation between satisfaction, productivity, and performance is linear (Alshmemri, Shahwan-Akl & Maude, 2017; Alshmemri et al., 2017).

A process theory that could do well to inform Herzberg’s framework is the Expectancy theory, which is a simple and intuitive tool to be used in the scope of reflecting on organizations and their interactions with employees (Saylor Academy, 2015). The theory is based on three pillars, those being expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. The theory offers a number of tools for managers and organizations, including rewarding employee performance, informing about the rewards in advance, and eliminating non-performance influences (such as favoritism) when distributing rewards (Lloyd & Mertens, 2018). Finally, the issues of valence are resolved by learning what rewards employees want the most, giving them a choice over different types of rewards, and ensuring fair distribution of such (Saylor Academy, 2015).

Leadership Practices

Leadership practices stand for the approach of managers and organizations to influence and guide their employees throughout the working process with the intent of achieving personal and organizational goals (Saylor Academy, 2015). Transformational leadership framework envisions the role of the leader as a conduit for the team that requires changes (Saylor Academy, 2015). This style is frequently adopted by leaders and organizations that seek to instill a paradigm shift and want to accommodate employees to the idea of changes (Andriani, Kesumawati, & Kristiawan, 2018). Without a supportive theory to do so, however, transformational leadership is less effective, as it does not provide clear-cut solutions and guidelines while handling menial projects (Saylor Academy, 2015).

Servant leadership focuses on employees and seeks to allow them to grow as specialists and leaders themselves, taking responsibility and agency over the development of their own skills (Saylor Academy, 2015). Some of the weaknesses of the style involve the fact that organizational decisions take longer, since authority is dispersed among the staff (Gandolfi & Stone, 2018). Servant leadership also requires extensive training and an internalized paradigm shift (Gandolfi & Stone, 2018). Finally, leaders who seem to be guided by the whims of their staff can be perceived as weak.

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Organizational Changes

Organizations must evolve and adapt to the surrounding market environment, lest they risk the chance to stagnate and die. Change theories seek to explain the process of change and provide a framework to mitigate its negative effects while maximizing the public good (Saylor Academy, 2015). Kurt Lewin’s theory of change is a framework most often used to describe and plan organizational change due to its relative simplicity, intuitive nature, and ease of use. The theory features three stages, including Unfreezing, Change, and Freezing stages (Burnes, 2020). The unfreezing stage of the process involves getting the employees internalize the need for change (Burnes, 2020). At this stage, active and stubborn resisting elements are noted and weeded out. The second stage includes implementing changes and making modifications based on feedback (Burnes, 2020). Finally, the re-freezing stage cements the new practices as the base standard, gradually returning to day-to-day operations as usual (Saylor Academy, 2015).

Application of Theories by Soccer School A

Soccer School A is a complex and multi-faceted organization where the largest group of employees (coaches) are also de-facto leaders when it comes to training and improving the skills of their students. As such, leadership theories and concepts are implemented in a two-fold fashion, those being coach-student interaction and coach-organization interaction. Being leaders and teachers alike, it is natural for coaches to implement transformational and servant leadership skills.

Transformational Leadership in Soccer School A

Transformational part comes from adapting teams of students to the tactics and playstyles of different opponents they have to face in the field. Teams participate in tournaments at various professional levels, ranging from amateur series to semi-professional and even local pro levels. As such, each team is attached to a host of coaches and trainers, each specializing in a different aspect of the game. The job of the coach is to facilitate the adaptation to different playstyles and standards that different leagues have. For example, if a team of players manages to acquire enough skill to beat other teams in the amateur league, they could be considered good enough to move to semi-professional play-offs.

However, the competition at the higher level is much steeper and requires a higher standard of skill, physical performance, training, and teamwork, among other metrics important in soccer. The coaches utilize transformational leadership in the following manner: traditionally, the team and its support staff are assembled some time before being included in the advanced league. The coach outlines the demands for qualifications required to play at that level. They also set goals that need to be achieved within a given time period, and an approximate timeline. The explanation of why it is important to get to the required level before playoffs is also present – the team is motivated to perform well at the higher level. Work starts from there, with training schedules and regimens being upgraded, with previous standards of play and practice no longer deemed satisfactory. The team, thus, adapts to the new way to play the game.

Servant Leadership in Soccer School A

Servant leadership is also widely utilized, as the purpose of the coach is to help their students grow into a fully-fledged athlete. The responsibility for individual training lies not only on the coach, but also on the pupil, as the school cannot be entirely in control of the person’s regimen and life. Therefore, it is required of players to become leaders in their own right and take active responsibility for their own careers and performances. The role of a servant leader is perfect for the facilitation of such qualities. The coach interacts with every player in order to sow the seeds of healthy ambition. It serves as the primary internal motivator for players, in line with the expectancy theory of motivation. It also frees up coach and personnel time while increasing efficiency, as the players can be trusted to follow the guidelines set out for them and take charge of their own careers. Instead of engaging in a relationship of a superior and a subordinate, servant coaches form that of mutual understanding and supporting each other’s’ objectives along the way. They are both working together as a team, with the coach providing their knowledge and skill, whereas the player’s interest lies in following those guidelines voluntarily to achieve their own progression.

Authoritarian Tendencies among Older Coaches

Nevertheless, due to the aging population among the coaches, they tend to rely on more antiquated styles of leadership, such as the autocratic authoritarian methods, where all the power is in the hands of the coach. On the one hand, such a style works to instill a certain sense of discipline in the player. While the coach is on the field, the students perform admirably. That style of leadership works well on certain types of child students that do not yet have a solid goal of their own and need to be guided into sport. However, the results of such a method vary, with progress often being lost whenever the coach is not in sight. At the same time, it is considered somewhat stressful for the pupil and associated with negative emotions, leading them to leave the sport early. Although prevalent during most of Japan’s history, this style is not conducive to a free-form kind of engagement, which is sports.

Current Motivational Practices

From the perception of Herzberg’s theory, Japanese Soccer School A focuses largely on the hygiene aspects of motivation rather than on the motivator component of the theory. From a certain point of view, such an approach is valid, as all of the points in that subgroup have an external component. The school provides a robust company policy and administration, supervision and control are lax with plenty of autonomy, and working conditions are excellent. The school seems to be neglecting the issues of interpersonal relationships and salaries.

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The coach board is dominated by aging specialists who are hesitant to accept new blood into their clique. They are used to authoritarian leadership styles and are suspicious of newer trends and techniques in coaching that become more popular in Japan. This makes Japanese Soccer School A slower to adapt new practices while also driving away ambitious and prospective young specialists, whose careers are often hampered by individuals that are against change. At the same time, salaries in the school are lower than with their emergent competition, despite the company having more financial resources compared to others. Thus, employees that know their worth and have a healthy ambition to perform are being driven away into other companies that are more dynamic in terms of promotion.

From the perspective of the expectancy theory, Japanese Soccer School A is not handling any of the three stages of motivation appropriately. As the previous review of its existing practices demonstrated, the company does not have a solid method of training new coaches and promoting talent at the local level. Older specialists are dominating the decision-making system on all levels, resulting in high rotation of prospective specialists that find employ in competing companies as a result. As such, their capacity to produce the results expected of them by the stakeholders is increasingly suspect. A club that cannot effectively In relation to the “what is in it for me” part of the equation, Soccer School A is also lagging behind, as they offer a reduced salary when compared to competition, for the same amount of work. At the same time, the capacity for recognition is lesser, as the school is large and famous, and any individual coaching successes would be attributed to the school rather than the coach. Finally, there is very little being done to increase the perception of employee successes in their own eyes, due to the collectivist cultural paradigm within the company.

Change Plan and Evaluation

The company is currently planning to embark on a change process in order to address the issues of training, motivation, and salary for its employees. It seeks to implement a new scheme of increasing the skills of new coaches in order to get them into the fold and increase their productivity. Japanese Soccer School A is also looking to increase its competitive edge in the labor market by increasing salaries and tying bonuses to performance. Finally, it seeks to get stakeholders more involved and launch a gradual replacement of aging coaches with new ones, removing them from the stagnant powerbase. These changes will require the cooperation of all individuals involved. The plan was formulated utilizing Kurt Lewin’s change model, and will comprise of three parts. All employees participating would be noted of the objectives of the operation, and explained their necessity for the continuous survival and prosperity of the company. The change phase will involve the implementation of courses and training for new coaches, with older ones being shifted from the position of coaching players to teaching new coaches. The test run of the program will show what needs to be changed and adapted, before the practices are refrozen as the new standard. The relative simplicity of the method allows Japanese Soccer School A to keep the process relatively streamlined and easy to understand, which is very important in large-scale organizations, where increased complexity is likely to lead to chaos and disorder.

The proposed plan has several strong points in relation to the task and the objectives in mind. One of its best parts is the gradual replacement plan, which does not dismiss aging specialists immediately, but rather transfers them into a position where their skills and experience could be more useful. While they do not necessarily represent the capacity to promote and accept ideas, they can give young coaches the necessary base knowledge and skills to advance. In effect, such a notion would transfer these individuals to a position of servant leadership, where they would serve as a stepping stone for the promotion of younger talent into the field. At the same time, the transfer would not completely eliminate them from the system and allow these coaches to contribute and prosper while not hampering the decision-making process. The focus of the entire operation, including promotions, compensation, and retention, is to acquire better talent for the organization, recognizing the value of coaches as key components for athlete success. The weaknesses of the plan come from the expenditures required to perform the alterations – salaries would need to be raised and new vacancies filled, which would cause additional costs in the short-term perspective.


Alshmemri, M., Shahwan-Akl, L., & Maude, P. (2017). Herzberg’s two-factor theory. Life Science Journal, 14(5), 12-16.

Andriani, S., Kesumawati, N., & Kristiawan, M. (2018). The influence of the transformational leadership and work motivation on teachers performance. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research, 7(7), 19-29.

Burnes, B. (2020). The Origins of Lewin’s three-step model of change. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 56(1), 32-59.

Gandolfi, F., & Stone, S. (2018). Leadership, leadership styles, and servant leadership. Journal of Management Research, 18(4), 261-269.

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Lloyd, R., & Mertens, D. (2018). Expecting more out of Expectancy Theory: History urges inclusion of the social context. International Management Review, 14(1), 28-43.

Saylor Academy. (2015). Organizational behavior. Web. 

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