Term of Award

Spring 2024

Degree Name

Master of Science, Kinesiology - Sport and Exercise Psychology Concentration

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Health and Kinesiology

Committee Chair

Brandonn Harris

Committee Member 1

Megan Byrd

Committee Member 2

Blair Evans

Committee Member 3

Amy Rundio

Committee Member 3 Email



A significant body of literature examines team processes as they relate to the team as a collective unit (Eys et al., 2019). However, smaller units present within a team, such as cliques or subgroups, warrant further scientific exploration and dissemination (Wagstaff & Martin, 2018). Existent literature on cliques in an athletic setting established that intra-team groups are inevitable, while also highlighting their emergence and formation, and their relative consequences at the team level (Martin, 2020; Wagstaff & Martin, 2018). Despite the scientific advancement at the group level, research concerning cliques is scarce. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore retired collegiate athletes' experiences with cliques. Themes constructed via thematic analysis showcase individual athletes’ cognitions, emotions, behaviors, status and roles, individual performance, and personal growth throughout their clique experience. In regard to cognitions, emotions, and behaviors, athletes shared both positive and negative implications (e.g. pride in their clique, support for fellow clique members, unmotivated to participate, and self-esteem). The findings of this study expand the understanding of athletes’ experiences with cliques by highlighting the facilitative and debilitative effects, which present an inevitable challenge to be balanced by athletic stakeholders within their teams.

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material