Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Kinesiology and Physical Education

Program Name/Specialization

<--Please Select Program Name/Specialization-->


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Mark Eys

Advisor Role

Supervised graduate training and dissertation research


The degree to which athletes understand and execute their formal role responsibilities (i.e., prescribed by coaches) is important for individual and group functioning (Eys, Schinke, Surya, & Benson, 2014). Recent literature suggested that informal roles can emerge within sport teams more naturally without coaches’ explicit assignments (e.g., team comedians, distracters), and have significant influences on team functioning (Cope, Eys, Beauchamp, Schinke, & Bosselut, 2011). This doctoral dissertation examined the nature of informal roles within interdependent sport teams, focusing on their antecedents and outcomes. Three separate projects were conducted. Project One examined athletes’ personality in the big five dimensions (McCrae & Costa, 2010) as antecedents of their informal role occupancy assessed via self- and teammate-identification (N = 535). Project Two examined whether athletes’ personality assessed near the beginning of the competitive season predicted their informal role occupancy at a later point of their season, and whether the presence of informal roles influenced valued outcome perceptions (e.g., group cohesion, athlete satisfaction) assessed closer to the end of the season (N = 286). Projects One and Two demonstrated that team comedians tended to be more extraverted (i.e., more outgoing) and distracters tended to be less conscientious (i.e., less dependable), although several inconsistent associations were also noted between personality and informal role occupancy across the two projects. Project Two further revealed that the presence of several informal roles affected athletes’ perceptions of group cohesion and satisfaction. Project Three employed an instrumental case study design with two sport teams, whereby different types of information (personality and informal role occupancy via questionnaires, athlete behaviours via video-recordings of competitions, interviews with coaches and athletes) were collected to conduct an in-depth examination of informal role emergence. The results revealed that those who occupied important task- and social-oriented informal roles, compared to those who did not, had higher tenure, garnered more playing time, and showed higher levels of activity during competitions. The interview results identified several factors that can influence informal role emergence, which pertained to either the role occupants (e.g., tenure, personal backgrounds) or the context (e.g., coach influence). Overall, this dissertation makes meaningful contributions to the group dynamics literature by highlighting important factors involved in the processes by which informal roles arise in groups, as well as their potential impact. Insight derived from this dissertation provides a foundation to continue this line of inquiry to further advance the understanding of the complex nature of informal roles.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season