An exploratory examination of interpersonal interactions between peers in informal sport play contexts


Purpose: Athlete-driven informal sport play represents an important context for athlete development. However, little is known about the interpersonal processes driving development in this context. The present study was an exploratory descriptive analysis of the interactive peer behaviors occurring in an informal sport play setting and their relationship to young athlete’s psychosocial outcomes. Method: Thirty young athletes (<25 years old, Mage = 19.84) participating in informal mixed-age volleyball, soccer, and basketball sessions at a community recreation center were observed and their interactive behavior coded. Participants also completed questionnaire measures of psychosocial outcomes (competence, confidence, character). Descriptive analyses examined the interaction patterns of young athletes in these contexts. Multiple regressions were then conducted to examine the relationships between peer interactive behavior and athletes’ psychosocial outcomes. Results: Results point to the social nature of participation in informal sport play contexts and the critical relationship between athlete competence and peer interaction tendencies. Conclusions: This study presents an initial exploration of peer interactive behavior in informal, mixed-age sport play contexts, but continued future research is needed to better understand the developmental processes and implications of participation in this important contexts. 

Acknowledgments: Funding for this project was provided by a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship (#767-2009-2417) to the first author and a SSHRC Standard Research Grant (#410-2011-0472) to the second author.