Subgroups and cliques in sport: a longitudinal case study of a rugby union team

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Although subgroups and cliques are anecdotally referenced as salient factors in sport organizations, they have only recently received attention within sport psychology literature. This is surprising given the potential influence of subgroup behavior on group-related processes and team functioning. The present study employed a longitudinal, repeated interview case study design to examine competitive rugby players’ awareness of subgroups and cliques, in addition to perceptions of their development, influence, and management over the course of a season. Findings indicated that players were not only able to articulate the nature of subgroups and cliques, but also to identify members of the various subunits. Both subgroup and clique membership and behavior were found to be fluid, develop over time, and be shaped by several organizational factors. Recommendations for the management of subgroups and cliques are provided, and the results are discussed in line with theoretical perspectives and practical applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-172
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online date12 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • social environment
  • organizational psychology in sport
  • group
  • relationships


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