Positional competition and prosocial and antisocial behavior in college athletes

Justin T. Worley *, Sebastian Harenberg **, Genevieve Tripler ***, Danika Wagener *** and Jacob Bernstein ***

(*) Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Utah State University, USA
(**) Department of Human Kinetics, St. Francis Xavier University, USA
(***) Department of Exercise Science and Athletic Training, Ithaca College, USA


T. Worley, J., Harenberg, S., Tripler, G., Wagener, D., Bernstein, J. (2022). Positional competition and prosocial and antisocial behavior in college athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 53(6), 591-601. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2022.53.591


Competition is embedded in the sport experience and is theorized to facil- itate adaptive and maladaptive athlete behaviors. While research efforts have primarily examined outcomes that stem from competitive processes between teams, an emerging area of research has focused on competition that exists with- in teams. With the recognition that athletes on sport teams regularly compete for playing time with other athletes in the same position (i.e., positional com- petition), the purpose of the current study was to examine how positional com- petition related to prosocial and antisocial behavior among NCAA Division III athletes (N = 208). Canonical correlation analysis revealed a moderate multi- variate relationship between the variable sets. Effort to improve, pushing team- mates in the same position, and self-awareness of ability were positively related to prosocial behavior, while comparison of performance was positively related to antisocial behaviors. The findings provide initial support for how competition for playing time may relate to moral behavior in high-performing athletic contexts.

Keywords: Competition, intrateam, moral behavior, group dynamics