Social identity and personal connections on the mat: Social network analysis within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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There is growing support for the claim that sport participation is commonly a social experience that is shaped by peer interactions. The current study examined how the structure of peer interactions within a large sport club were associated with social identification within that setting and predicted adherence to club activities. To understand the group's social structure, we used a social network derived from reported peer interactions. We expected that one's position within the network (i.e., structural centrality, derived from peer-reported interactions) would be positively associated with their social identification and would prospectively predict adherence at a follow-up point in time. Participants included 185 practitioners from a large Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) club (Mage = 31.91 SD = 7.05, 95% male). Participants completed a name generator survey (to construct the social network) alongside items related to social identification, whereas club records were accessed to measure adherence at a 7 month follow-up. Regression analyses indicated that those who were most central within the peer network reported stronger perceptions of one social identity dimension (i.e., ingroup ties) and were more likely to continue involvement in BJJ. These findings demonstrate how structural centrality within a large peer network may relate to beliefs about the group and behavior – with a key implication being the need to strengthen athletes' peer integration within club environments.

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