Can Individualists Find Satisfaction Participating in Interactive Team Sports?

By McCutcheon, Lynn E.; Ashe, Diane | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 1999 | Go to article overview
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Can Individualists Find Satisfaction Participating in Interactive Team Sports?


McCutcheon, Lynn E., Ashe, Diane, Journal of Sport Behavior


Male athletes from three interactive team sports were given the GEQ, a satisfaction measure, and the Individualism/Collectivism Scale. Coaches rated their athletes on coachability. Results suggested that extreme individualists were no less coachable and no less satisfied with participation in a team sport than extreme collectivists. Two regression analyses found that a combination of GEQ and Individualism/Collectivism subscale scores was able to predict satisfaction.

An individualist is a person who devalues group efforts in achievement-related contexts, values privacy, devalues the importance of groups for personal well-being, and prefers a high degree of personal autonomy and self-sufficiency (Dion & Dion, 1991). A collectivist is the opposite. Dion and Dion (1991) developed a 15-item Individualism/Collectivism Scale in order to measure this dimension. Factor analysis has shown that the scale has four subscales which can be labeled as indicated above.

There are numerous anecdotes about individualists who participate in those team sports which require considerable interaction. Athletes like Dennis Rodman, Brian Bosworth, and Jim Bouton achieved fame partly because of their refusal to conform to team or league rules. Upon being told that he could make an extra two million dollars by being more of a collectivist, Charles Barkley reportedly said "What the h___ do I need another couple of million for? I'd rather be myself' (Barkley, 1994, p. 114).

Professional athletes like Barkley make so much money that they can afford to be individualists if they are so inclined. However, the vast majority of individualists are modestly talented amateurs who risk criticism, ostracism, and even removal from the team for expressing their individuality. Moreover, it seems reasonable to think that individualists would be less happy than collectivists about participation in sports that place a premium on conformity and require much interpersonal interaction. A cross-country runner who develops a unique training and racing strategy can often do so without being dependent on teammates, but the defender who decides to guard a zone when the rest of the team is playing man-to-man will draw the ire of players and coaches alike.

Intuitively there seems to be a negative relationship between cohesion and individualism. Cohesion requires a willingness to "fit in" with an interactive team, either socially, or to achieve athletic goals, or both. Individualists devalue group efforts and value self-sufficiency. There is some indirect evidence in support of this negative relationship. Singer (1969) found deference and affiliation to be slightly higher in interactive team sport athletes (baseball) than in coactive sport athletes (tennis), and Cratty (1973) reported that coactive sport athletes appeared to be less dependent on others and more self-sufficient than athletes from interactive team sports. Schurr, Ashley, and Joy (1977) found that male athletes who participated in interactive sports, including baseball, basketball, and football, were more dependent than athletes who participated in coactive team sports. High self-sufficiency, low affiliation, and low dependency are associated with being an individualist.

It is conceivable that coaches might find individualists difficult to coach. If an individualist desires a great deal of autonomy and a coach has very firm ideas about the behavioral roles of each athlete, it seems likely that the two will clash and that the coach will come to view individualism as a lack of coachability.

Cohesion has been described as four related constructs that describe the relationship of members to their group. They are Attraction to the Group - Task (ATG-T) and Social (ATG-S), and Group Integration - Task (GI-T) and Social (GI-S). Using these four constructs, Carron, Widmeyer, and Brawley (1985) developed the 18-item Group Environment Questionnaire (GEQ) to assess perceived cohesion.

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Can Individualists Find Satisfaction Participating in Interactive Team Sports?
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