Perceiving and experiencing subgroups in sport: a proposed conceptual framework

Cailie S. McGuire, M. Blair Evans, Luc J. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The purpose of this research was to develop a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that shape athletes’ perceptions and experiences of subgroups, with the purview of advancing a sport subgroup conceptualisation. We employed a four-phase qualitative design grounded in critical realism, whereby we: (1) conducted six focus group interviews (n = 28 interuniversity athletes), (2) proposed a preliminary conceptualisation based on relevant theory and themes from Phase 1, (3) undertook a conceptualisation review process with group dynamics scholars (n = 5), and (4) reengaged six athletes from Phase 1 for individual reflection interviews. Our resulting conceptualisation suggests that experiences with subgroups are based on the extent to which athletes recognise their presence (i.e., observability) and the associated behaviours (i.e., behavioural) demonstrated by the observed subgroups. These two dimensions subsequently inform athlete affective, behavioural, and cognitive outcomes. We advocate for a nuanced approach to exploring subgroups in sport and provide suggestions for future research and practical advancements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-935
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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