What every body is saying: Athlete perceptions of body language and its potential influence on sport group dynamics


Nonverbal communication is any means of communication that does not include verbal language (Eccles & Tenenbaum, 2004). One type of nonverbal communication is body language (McKay et al., 2018). Currently, there is no widely accepted conceptualization for body language in sport, despite its continued reference in academic and non-academic sources (e.g., Tamminen & Crocker, 2013). Further, some researchers describe body language and nonverbal communication as synonymous (Furley & Schweizer, 2020). Regardless, connections have been made between body language and the functioning of sport teams (e.g., Moesch et al., 2018). A qualitative study was conducted to explore athlete perceptions of body language, and the potential influence of body language on group dynamics in an interdependent sport context. Using online semi-structured interviews (Creswell, 2013), data were collected from current and past (n = 16; Mage = 19.12 years) competitive team sport (e.g., basketball) athletes. Thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) is being used to analyze the data. Preliminary results highlight potential properties (e.g., consciousness, directness), types (e.g., posture), and functions (e.g., strategy) of body language in team sport contexts. Further, athletes identified several potential group dynamics correlates of body language in team sport (e.g., group environment, cohesion). Due to the potential influence of body language on group dynamics, one practical suggestion is to encourage increased awareness of athlete and coach body language in team sport environments. Additionally, a direction for future research is to develop a valid and reliable measure for body language to be used in the sport context.