Perceiving the team environment: A multilevel analysis of psychological climate and effort among female athletes


Research has been devoted to better understanding how the perceived environment comes to manifest itself in the behavior of individuals (McGrath, 1984). Perceiving one’s environment as psychologically safe and meaningful (positive psychological climate) has been associated with a higher degree of personal engagement (James et al., 2008). In the sport setting, when male ice hockey players perceived a psychologically safe environment, engagement in the form of athlete-reported effort increased (Spink et al., 2013). Given that sex differences have emerged in extant climate literature (e.g., Carr et al., 2000), it was deemed important to further explore this relationship in a sample of female athletes. To do so, 180 participants (representing 16 teams) completed an adapted version of the Psychological Climate Questionnaire (PCQ; Brown & Leigh, 1996) and a 6-item perceived effort measure (Spink et al., 2013) following a late season practice. To account for nesting of players within teams (ICC = 0.08), a multilevel model used four subscales of the PCQ (supportive management, role clarity, self-expression, and contribution) to predict effort. Results revealed that two of the subscales (role clarity and contribution) significantly predicted effort (p < .001) accounting for 17.62% of the overall variance. This finding suggests that when female athletes perceive (a) a significant contribution to various team outcomes using their unique skill sets and (b) clear views surrounding role-related behaviors, they are more likely to report working hard. In relation to the study purpose, this pattern of results shared both similarities and differences with males. In terms of similarities, role clarity emerged as a predictor in both samples (Spink et al., 2013) whereas the climate subscales of self-expression emerged for males and contribution for females. While replication is needed, engagement in the form of self-reported effort appears to be associated with how both sexes perceive their team environment.