Many non-affiliated runners this year may be considering joining one of the many local running clubs in order to gain valuable support and knowledge for races later in the year. So what can social and sports psychologists tell us about the benefits/costs of joining a running club (or any other sports club or group)?
One of the main areas of interest for both sport (Widmeyer et al., 1992) and social psychologists (Forsyth, 1999) is group/team dynamics and cohesion. Research has identified a number of important factors that can influence the level or type of cohesion (e.g. task or social) and its effect on performance. These include: group size, propinquity (physical proximity between members), joining costs, leadership style(s) of the group, in-group competition and group success and similarity (Bray and Whaley, 2001). However what it is still unclear from the research, is to what extent these determinants encourage cohesiveness or indeed inhibit group development and performance. For example, research by Janis (1982) found that group similarity had a negative effect on performance.
For those who are contemplating joining a running or sports club it may prove more beneficial to shop around by attending a few (normally free) taster sessions to gain an insight into the club/group structure and dynamics and how that may effect their future running performance.
Joining a running club