The team communication network and athlete burnout in adolescent softball players


Interactions among teammates may influence athlete attitudes and feelings toward sport, having implications for experiences such as burnout (DeFreese & Smith, 2014; Udry et al., 1997). However, little is known about how the structure of interactions on a team may be salient to athlete burnout. The purpose of the current study was to conduct an intensive descriptive examination of one athletic team to understand the network of communicative interactions among teammates and how features of the network structure linked with social perceptions and burnout perceptions of exhaustion, reduced accomplishment, and sport devaluation. Participants (N = 12; M age = 16.1 years) completed network questions pertaining to the frequency of interactions with teammates and closest friends on the team as well as established measures of loneliness, relatedness, and burnout. UCINET software (Borgatti et al., 2002) was used to produce sociograms based on responses to the network questions. Participants located at the periphery of the network (i.e., lower degree centrality) reported having fewer close friends on the team and were nominated as a close friend by fewer teammates than more central network members. These athletes also reported greater loneliness and burnout perceptions than those with higher degree centrality. Results suggest that an athlete's position in the team communication network may be salient to burnout. Future work comparing different team structures and examining network structure over time could shed light on issues such as the transmission (or not) of supportive and non-supportive social information and the downstream implications for burnout perceptions.