Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Perfectionism and Perceptions of Social Loafing in Competitive Youth Soccer

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Perfectionism and Perceptions of Social Loafing in Competitive Youth Soccer

Article excerpt

Social loafing refers to the reduction in effort that occurs when an individual works collectively on a task compared to when working alone on a task (Karau & Williams, 1993; Latane, Williams, & Harkins, 1979). This reduction in individual effort has been shown to result in reduced (or sub-optimal) performance/productivity levels in a wide variety of achievement settings including (but not limited to) business/workplace teams, classroom tasks in academe, and physical/athletic performance tasks (for reviews see Hardy, 1990; Karau & Williams, 1993; Simms & Nichols, 2014). Understanding the impact of social loafing upon performance, the reasons why social loafing occurs, and methods by which social loafing can be reduced is particularly relevant in the context of interactive team sports (e.g., soccer, hockey, or basketball) where athletes trust and rely upon teammates to give maximum effort towards the achievement of team goals (both in training and competition). Even a small amount of social loafing in interactive team sports, especially at elite levels of competition, has the potential to jeopardize a team's chances of attaining competitive success (see Hardy, 1990; Hoigaard, Fuglestad, Peters, De Cuyper, De Backer, & Boen, 2010).

Numerous studies have examined social-loafing effects in physical (athletic) performance tasks. The majority of these studies have been conducted in coactive team/group contexts where the overall performance of teams is dependent upon the summation of individual performances (but where no specific interaction between team members is necessary: e.g., a swimming relay race). Coactive activities that have been used to study social-loafing effects in physical (athletic) performance tasks have included running (Swain, 1996), rowing (Anshel, 1995; Hardy & Crace, 1991), swimming (Williams, Nida, Baca, & Latane, 1989), and cycling (Haugen, Reinboth, Hetlelid, Peters, & Hoigaard, 2016). In these studies, effort/performance is typically assessed through objective measures of time/speed, distance travelled, and/or power output. The results of these studies have revealed drops in individual performance levels (e.g., reduced speed, reduced distance travelled, reduced power output) when the identifiability of each individual participant's performance was reduced (e.g., participants were informed that their individual performance was to be subsumed within an overall measure of group/team performance) in comparison to when the identifiability of each participant's performance was increased (e.g., participants were informed that their individual performance was to be directly recorded and publicly evaluated).

Although the aforementioned studies highlight the debilitating effects that social loafing can have upon individual- and team-performance in athletic tasks, social-loafing research in interactive team-sport settings is scarce. The lack of research in this area is likely due to the inherent difficulties associated with objectively measuring individual output (i.e., performance or effort) in interactive team sports (see Hoigaard et al., 2010). No published studies have directly measured the impact of social loafing on effort/performance in interactive team sports, however, researchers have assessed perceived social loafing (see Hoigaard, Safvenbom, & Tonnessen, 2006) in these contexts (where higher levels of perceived social loafing reflect a higher belief that teammates engage in social loafing). The limited body of research that has examined perceived social loafing in interactive team sports has shown perceived social loafing to be positively correlated with self-reported levels of social loafing among elite female team-handball players (Iloigaard et al., 2010), negatively correlated with perceptions of task- and social-cohesion among male youth soccer teams (Hoigaard, Safvenbom, et al., 2006), and negatively correlated with team identification (i.e., the degree to which athletes personally and/or socially identify with the achievements of their team) among female basketball, soccer, and volleyball players (De Backer, Boen, De Cuyper, Hoigaard, & Vande Broek, 2014). …

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