Group dynamics in recreational team sport later in life


One approach to encourage active lifestyles throughout middle to older adulthood involves increasing opportunities for people to participate in community-based sport. However, research is needed to inform the promotion, design, and delivery of recreational sport programs for older people. An understanding of the dynamics among participants of older adult sport teams could facilitate positive interactions and experiences necessary to encourage greater involvement and sustained participation in sport throughout the lifespan. The purpose of the present study was to better understand the group dynamics of adult recreational sport teams later in life via a qualitative research approach. Seventeen mid-life and older adults (Mage = 64.06, SD = 6.40) who previously participated in youth team sport, and were currently involved in adult recreational team sport, participated in semi-structured phone interviews. Using reflexive content analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2019), themes relevant to group dynamics and team sport participation later in life were organized into categories outlined in the conceptual framework for the study of sport teams (Eys et al., 2020), including: member attributes (e.g., physical literacy), group environment (e.g., competitive level), group structure (e.g., group norms), emergent states (e.g., cohesion), group processes (e.g., conflict), and outcomes (e.g., personal development). Findings highlight unique group perceptions in recreational team sport later in life, relative to personal experiences and research with younger sport teams. This information underscores the need to recognize distinct differences in the experience of team dynamics across the lifespan and has important implications for the development, functioning, and outcomes of older community-based sport teams.

Acknowledgments: Funding: This work was supported by the Sun Life Financial Centre for Physically Active Communities.