Building 'us' from within: A feasibility study to explore athlete and coach experiences of a peer-led social identity intervention in youth sport


Although social identity has been associated with several positive outcomes in youth sport, limited evidence exists regarding intervention programs designed to strengthen youth athletes' identification with their team. This study explored the feasibility of a peer-led intervention aimed at cultivating a shared social identity (i.e., 5RS; Fransen et al., 2020), adapted for youth sport. In the 5RS intervention, a shared leadership structure was implemented and appointed athlete leaders helped to guide each team through various phases (5R's; Readying, Reflecting, Representing, Realizing, and Reporting). Together, athletes built a shared sense of 'us' from within, using terms and symbols relevant to the group. Participants were members of five competitive youth ice hockey teams (N = 84, Mage = 13.02 years, range = 10-15), who completed the intervention at midseason. Focus group interviews with each of the five teams involved appointed athlete leaders (n = 19), and three interviews took place with coaches from three teams (n = 4). Overall, athletes and coaches expressed support for the acceptability, implementation, and practicality of the intervention. Specifically, participants highlighted the novel components of the 5RS intervention, including the creation of a unique team 'trademark' by the athletes and the shared leadership mapping exercise that identified athlete leaders. Importantly, athletes and coaches also raised several important considerations for further intervention development, relating to intervention timing and follow-up booster sessions to solidify the content. Collectively, the findings offered initial feasibility evidence and recommendations to enhance the design of the main intervention protocol.

Acknowledgments: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada