Athletes' perceptions of role significance in an interdependent sport context


Roles are integral structural components of interdependent sport teams. The perceptions athletes hold about their role responsibilities influence several individual and team outcomes (Eys et al., 2020). Of specific interest to the current study are athletes' perceptions of role significance. Two theoretical perspectives dominate research relative to the significance of one's tasks within organizational psychology: (a) the job characteristic model (Hackman & Oldham, 1976) and (b) the social information processing model (Salancik & Pfeffer, 1978). Within the former, task significance (akin to role significance) was conceptualized as the degree to which an employee's work affects others within or outside the organization (Hackman & Oldham, 1976). However, the relevance to sport and broader role responsibilities is unknown. In the present study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven competitive-level athletes (four male and three female; Mage = 23.43 ± 3.78), and five competitive-level coaches (four male and one female; Mage = 41.00 ± 11.63) from interdependent team sports (e.g., basketball). Participants identified several potential antecedents of role significance (e.g., acknowledgment, impact on team performance, role properties, and individual attraction to the group), and resulting individual (e.g., confidence, motivation, performance, retention) and group (e.g., team morale) outcomes. Findings suggest that athletes recognize the interdependency of team sports, highlighting the significance of numerous roles within a team. Results are expected to guide future research that will elicit practical implications, such as informing coaches on how best to cultivate role significance perceptions (e.g., use of social cues or constructive changes to existing athlete role responsibilities).