I spend a lot of time working out alone. Sometimes it is hard to push myself when no one else is around. So I love occasionally working out with a group. It helps me stay accountable, push myself a little bit harder, and get through tough workouts that I might otherwise not get through.
However, sometimes working out with a group can have a negative effect on your motivation and exertion. I’m sure everyone that plays derby can relate to this story: You’re at practice, there are around 25 of you today. Everyone begins skating laps for an endurance drill. You realize that most people aren’t pushing it that hard, so you “blend in” and just skate at a moderate pace. Everyone around you seems to be doing the same thing. You end up finishing the endurance workout, but you’ve barely worked hard.
When you are working out with a group, but the group is just big enough for you to not be individually noticed, it is very easy to succumb to something called social loafing. Broadly defined, this is when you are not as motivated to work hard because you don’t perceive your individual effort to be that important. The endurance workout will still get done, whether or not you are pushing yourself harder than anyone in the group.
Social loafing can be a challenge for coaches, when the power of the group’s laziness is more powerful than their screams of, “go faster!! try harder!!” If you don’t have a critical mass of people who want to go faster and try harder, it doesn’t always happen.
However, there are some relatively easy ways to discourage social loafing, even when you are in a large group:
(1) Set goals for the group. For example, if you’re sprinting for a minute straight around the track, give a number of laps that should be completed in that time. Set the number high so skaters have to work hard to reach the goal.
(2) Keep individuals as accountable as you can. For example, during an endurance drill, have the group pair up. One person from the group can keep their partner’s time (per lap, per set, etc.) and then read the times aloud to everyone before starting the next group.
(3) Be supportive of each other. If you sense that everyone is slacking off a bit, speak up! Skate harder! Push everyone around you! Don’t yell at your teammates, but acknowledge that everyone can work harder as a team (including you).
(4) Keep group sizes small. When doing drills or endurance workouts, break the team up into groups of 5-6 rather than 30. It might take a bit longer to get through some workouts, but if the overall group effort is higher, they will need the extra time to rest anyway!
Social loafing is always going to occur, but it’s important to start recognizing how to limit it whenever possible. And if you need a break from thinking about social loafing, check out cat loafing! Note: cat loafing is not related to roller derby in any way…