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An exploratory examination of sociometric status, athlete behaviour, and sport competence in adolescent female volleyball
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Smith (2003) suggested in an influential review paper that behavioural observation and sociometry were two potentially useful but under-utilized methods for the study of peers in youth sport. Despite this call, the methods used to study peers in sport remain largely focused on athletes’ perceptions through questionnaires and interviews (Murphy-Mills, Bruner, Erickson, & Côté, 2011). Thus, the purpose of this project was to examine sociometric status, competence, and athlete behaviour in a youth sport context using an observational coding system. Female volleyball players (N = 28; Mage = 15.94) from three competitive teams completed the sport competence and peer connection inventories (Vierimaa, Erickson, Côté, & Gilbert, 2012), and each team was videotaped during three practices. An observational coding system was developed and used to code athlete behaviours in a continuous, time-based manner and this data was compared across sociometric status groups. The results reinforce past research that suggests that sport competence is an important factor in gaining peer acceptance among youth (e.g., Weiss & Duncan, 1992). Behavioural profiles were constructed for each sociometric status group, which revealed differences between groups in relation to interactions with peers, coaches, and overall sociability. Rejected and neglected athletes appeared to be less sociable than average, interacting less with peers and coaches. Coaches also appeared to spend more time interacting with popular athletes who they viewed as more competent, and less with rejected and neglected athletes who they viewed as less competent. Thus, sociometry appears to be a useful approach with which to study young athletes’ behaviour in sport.