Positional competition and intra-team conflict: Perceptions of starters and non-starters from interuniversity sport


In interuniversity sport teams, athletes are required to compete for playing time, often resulting in the assignment of playing status by the coach (Harenberg et al., 2016). Despite anecdotal support for the association between playing status and adverse team processes (e.g., conflict)—particularly in athletes not selected as starters—little empirical evidence exits to support such claims. The current project examined perceptions of positional competition and intra-team conflict from both starters and non-starters of university sport teams. A total of 206 Canadian Interuniversity Sport athletes (Mage = 20.18; SD = 2.01; n = 139 females) completed the Positional Competition in Team Sport Questionnaire (Harenberg et al., 2014) and the Group Conflict Questionnaire (Paradis et al., 2014). Independent t-tests were calculated to examine the difference between starting and non-starting players. The results revealed significantly lower perceptions of effort, pushing one's teammate, social awareness, recognition by the coach, and transparency of selection in positional competition in non-starting athletes. No significant differences in perceptions of social and task conflict between starters and non-starters were found. The results indicate that non-starting athletes may perceive higher performance contribution, awareness, and recognition in the competition for playing time in their position. This may be due to a lack the affirmation of competency by being selected for inter-team competitions over other teammates in their positions. However, playing status was not associated with perceptions of conflict. It is possible that other group processes (e.g., cohesion) may influence this relationship. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.