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.
Martin and Wilson are with the Dept. of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Evans is with the Dept. of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada. Spink is with the College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada.