Given the prevalence of group contexts in sport and the importance of the social environment for motivating youth participants, understanding and enhancing group dynamics are critical to facilitate youths’ participation in, and development through, sport. The current objective was to report on a scoping review that was employed to summarize research focused on the dynamics in youth sport groups. The review identified several themes that have been focused on with regularity (i.e., cohesion) and identified others with opportunities for greater incorporation in youth sport research (e.g., cooperation). Furthermore, encouragement is provided to move beyond survey-based, cross-sectional research and to give greater consideration to a developmental approach to understanding child and youth perceptions of the groups to which they belong. Overall, there are many opportunities for researchers to study the dynamics of youth sport groups with an aim to enhance the experiences of young athletes and facilitate group functioning.
Brennan Petersen, Mark Eys, Kody Watson, and M. Blair Evans
Kelsey Saizew, M. Blair Evans, Veronica Allan, and Luc J. Martin
The authors explored how sport structure predisposed a team to subgroup formation and influenced athlete interactions and team functioning. A season-long qualitative case study was undertaken with a nationally ranked Canadian track and field team. Semistructured interviews were conducted with coaches (n = 4) and athletes (n = 11) from different event groups (e.g., sprinters, jumpers) at the beginning and at the end of the season. The results highlighted constraints that directly impacted athlete interactions and predisposed the group to subgroup formation (e.g., sport/event type, facility/schedule limitations, team size/change over time). The constraints led to structural divides that impacted interactions but could be overcome through team building, engaging with leaders, and prioritizing communication. These findings underline how structure imposed by the design of sports impacts teammate interactions and how practitioners, coaches, and athletes can manage groups when facing such constraints. The authors describe theoretical and practical implications while also proposing potential future directions.
Scott A. Graupensperger, Alex J. Benson, and M. Blair Evans
The authors examined athletes’ conformity to teammates’ risky behaviors through a performance-based manipulation paradigm. They hypothesized that athletes who strongly identified with their team would be at increased risk of conforming to teammates’ behaviors. Athletes (N = 379) from 23 intact National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams completed surveys (e.g., social identity) and reported the extent to which they would engage in risky behavior scenarios (e.g., drinking and driving). Then, researchers displayed ostensible responses that were manipulated to appear as though teammates reported high engagement in the risky behaviors. Finally, athletes again responded to the hypothetical scenarios and a conformity index was created. Results indicated that social identity, at both individual and group levels, positively predicted conformity—indicating that athletes with stronger social identities are more susceptible to peer influence. Although these findings highlight a pernicious aspect of social identity, they also provide insight into how group-level processes could be leveraged to prevent risky behaviors in student-athletes.
Oliver W.A. Wilson, Michael J. Panza, M. Blair Evans, and Melissa Bopp
Background: The purpose of this scoping review was to critically examine the design and quality of contemporary research involving college student physical activity participation, focusing on physical activity measurement, assessment of sociodemographic characteristics, and examination of inequities based on sociodemographic characteristics. Methods: Systematic searches were conducted in 4 electronic databases. Results: From 28,951 sources screened, data were extracted from 488 that met the inclusion criteria. The majority of the studies were cross-sectional in design (91.4%) and employed convenience sampling methods (83.0%). Based on the subsample of studies that reported the percentage of students meeting aerobic (n = 158; equivalent of 150 min/wk of moderate physical activity) and muscle-strengthening activity recommendations (n = 8; ≥2 times/wk), 58.7% and 47.8% of students met aerobic and muscle-strengthening recommendations, respectively. With the exception of age and sex, sociodemographic characteristics were rarely assessed, and inequities based upon them were even more scarcely examined—with no apparent increase in reporting over the past decade. Conclusions: College student physical activity levels remain concerningly low. The generalizability of findings from the contemporary literature is limited due to study design, and acknowledgement of the influence that sociodemographic characteristics have on physical activity has largely been overlooked. Recommendations for future research directions and practices are provided.
Luc J. Martin, Jessi Wilson, M. Blair Evans, and Kevin S. Spink
Although cliques are often referenced in sporting circles, they have received little attention in the group dynamics literature. This is surprising given their potential influence on group-related processes that could ultimately influence team functioning (e.g., Carron & Eys, 2012). The present study examined competitive athletes’ perceptions of cliques using semistructured interviews with 18 (nine female, nine male) intercollegiate athletes (Mage = 20.9, SD = 1.6) from nine sport teams. Athletes described the formation of cliques as an inevitable and variable process that was influenced by a number of antecedents (e.g., age/tenure, proximity, similarity) and ultimately shaped individual and group outcomes such as isolation, performance, and sport adherence. Further, athletes described positive consequences that emerged when existing cliques exhibited more inclusive behaviors and advanced some areas of focus for the management of cliques within sport teams. Results are discussed from both theoretical and practical perspectives.
Oliver W.A. Wilson, Scott Graupensperger, M. Blair Evans, and Melissa Bopp
Background: Entering college is associated with significant lifestyle changes and the potential adoption of a lifelong lifestyle. This study examined the longitudinal relationship between physical activity (PA) and fruit and vegetable consumption (FVC) in the hopes that findings could inform student health promotion. Methods: A total of 369 undergraduate students provided complete responses to demographic, PA, and FVC items via an online survey 3 times over a 6-month period. Random intercept cross-lagged panel modeling examined the association between PA and FVC. Results: Models demonstrated a strong fit for both moderate PA and vigorous PA. In both models, FVC, but not PA, was stable across the 3 waves. Neither model revealed a temporal association between PA and FVC. Unlike the moderate PA model, the vigorous PA model revealed a strong positive association between trait-like vigorous PA and trait-like FVC. Conclusion: The stability of FVC over time reinforces the importance of facilitating the adoption and maintenance of healthy dietary behaviors among college students, whereas the instability of PA over time highlights the importance of promoting students’ PA year round. The absence of a temporal link between PA and FVC indicates that promotion of one behavior should not be assumed to result in improvement of the other.
Mark Eys, M. Blair Evans, Luc J. Martin, Jeannine Ohlert, Svenja A. Wolf, Michael Van Bussel, and Charlotte Steins
A previous meta-analysis examining the relationship between cohesion and performance (Carron, Colman, Wheeler, & Stevens, 2002) revealed that this relationship was significantly stronger for female teams as compared with male teams. The purpose of the current study was to explore perceptions of the cohesion-performance relationship by coaches who have led teams of both genders. Semistructured interviews were employed with Canadian and German coaches with previous experience leading both male and female sport teams. The information obtained through the interviews yielded a number of categories pertaining to potential similarities and differences within female and male sport teams including: (a) the nature of cohesion (e.g., direction of the cohesion-performance relationship), (b) antecedents of cohesion (e.g., approaches to conflict), and (c) the management of cohesion (e.g., developing social cohesion). Overall, the results offer testable propositions regarding gender differences and group involvement in a sport context as well as informing best practices such that teams can attain optimal performance.