Team factors in youth sport participation: The role of cohesion, norms, and social support
There is a dearth of literature examining how the cohesiveness of the team may be connected to individual athlete participation in youth sport settings. Although results from studies conducted with adult athletes (Carron, Widmeyer, & Brawley, 1988; Prapavessis & Carron, 1997a; Spink, 1995) suggest a positive link between perceptions of team cohesion and individual participation, this relationship has not been established with adolescent athletes. The purposes of the studies in this dissertation were: (1) to examine the relationship between cohesion and participation in a youth sport sample; (2) to examine if task cohesion moderated the relationship between perceptions of teammates’ effort levels (descriptive norms) and a participation-related outcome (effort); (3) to experimentally test the combined influence of cohesion and descriptive norms on individual self-reported effort; and (4) to explore the plausibility of teammate support as one possible mediator of the cohesion-participation relationship. A multivariate approach was used in Study 1 to both establish the initial relationship between cohesion and individual participation as well as inform subsequent studies in this dissertation by identifying which specific cohesion factors (task, social) and participation-related outcomes (effort, attendance, intention to return to the team) were most strongly related. Multivariate results revealed that task cohesion was associated with two participation outcomes – effort and intention to return to the team. Examining if perceptions of cohesion would qualify the link between perceptions about how hard teammates were working and individual athletes’ self-reported effort levels was the purpose of Study 2. Both constructs emerged as positive, significant correlates of effort. As a follow up, a between-subjects experimental design with vignettes was used in Study 3 to test the combined effects of cohesion and descriptive norms about teammate effort on individual self-reported effort levels. Building upon Study 2’s correlational findings, cohesion and descriptive norms both had an independent, positive influence on how hard players rated that they would work. The purpose of Study 4 was to consider one possible reason why team cohesion may be associated with individual participation - social support. To examine the proposition that social support may mediate the relationship between cohesion and participation, a prospective design was used in Study 4 to test the links between early-season cohesion, late-season perceptions of social support, and two participation-related outcomes (effort, intention to return to the team in the future). Results supported the plausibility of social support as a partial mediator for both outcomes. Taken together, these four studies provided initial evidence for the potential link between team cohesion and individual participation in youth sport. Additionally, the emergence of two other team-related constructs, descriptive norms and social support, suggests that these forms of teammate influence also may be associated with youth sport athletes’ participation on their team.
youth sport, teams, cohesion, norms, social support
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)