By: Emily Cheek (The Sport in Mind)


Cohesion is a term that is identifiable in every aspect of sport whether it is team or individual activity, but is it always a positive thing? It can be described as ‘a dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency of a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives and/ or for the satisfaction of member affective needs’ which basically encapsulates the degree to which a team agree and work towards common goals and how this satisfies all the members on a personal level as well as for the team (Caron et al, 2002).

There are two types of cohesion:

– task cohesion: working towards a common goal

– social cohesion: the interaction between team members

For the best levels of cohesion these must appeal to each individual member but also to the group as a whole in order for the greatest chance of success and  the majority of studies conclude that the greater the cohesion the greater the success. Therefore, the goals are set the needs of both the team and all its members must be considered for the highest chance of success. When creating these goals they do not always have to be measured as winning but can be group achievements such as scoring a number of points of carrying out a skill successfully and completing these will boost positive emotion and increase the group cohesion.

However, sometimes having too high cohesion does have its drawbacks and can act as a negative influence. It is usually the social element to cohesion which can cause this to occur as the social aspect of the team may become more important than the sport so the focus is distracted and blurred and so there will be a lack on concentration and clarity within the team. Another feature which may cause dissonance is too many members within a group which can increase the likelihood of individuals clashing over ideas or team positions. Further to this ‘cohesion may increase pressure to conform, groupthink and group polarisation’ (Rovio et al, 2009). By forcing conformity on individuals then cohesion will be reduced as the goals are not appealing to the individual and so success is far less likely which may cause certain members to feel isolated and therefore more likely to drop out of sport all together due to the negative experience, especially when combined with a reduced success rate.


Mood is another factor which can influence team cohesion and can have either a positive or negative effect overall. It would seem that having high task cohesion is the most important factor to take into consideration because even if the individuals are not completely satisfied they are still working towards the same goal and so success is imminent. Opposite to this, if task cohesion is low a dysfunctional team is going to develop as members will all have differing goals which will cause anger when one goal is not achieved which potentially can lead to depression due to the lack of success and high levels of tension within the group. When both task and social cohesion are high a team are more likely to work well due to the improved success rates and increased vigour combined with reduced anger, depression and tension which should be the aim for all teams.

If there are major issues of cohesion within the team it may need to be addressed by an external source. Team building interventions are one of the most successful ways of controlling and improving any cohesion issues within a team before it is too late. This can involve the coach building in short exercises into a training session to build team goals and to ensure the members work together not against one another. Sometimes it is too much for the coach and an expert can intervene often taking the team out of the usual training or match situation and into a different environment such as an outdoor course to re-focus the members and reinforce the importance of cohesion. It is vital to build relationships, focus on task, emphasise the positives in each individual and acknowledge this and disperse any conflict to build a more cohesive and successful team unit (Onojaife, 2014).

Therefore, the aim for all teams in order to have the greatest chance of being highly successful is to define roles within the group to avoid clashes between members and also to provide a contact for members to approach should they feel isolated and the group can then be reassessed. Each team should set its own team and social goals which should combine each individual’s ideas for the team which need to be realistic for the skill level but do not always need to be winning. The team should not have too many members as this will increase the likelihood of failure due to contrasting ideas and also social clashes between members, so the group should be controlled but also not focus on the social aspect too much as this can draw away from the sport entirely. Once the goals are cemented and success begins then the members mood will improve and stay positive which will therefore continue to improve the team achievements and also boost participation as they enjoy the sport and so will continue to play.

Filed under: Fundamentals, Miscellaneous, Youth Sports Tagged: childhood and youth, coaching fundementals, communication, development

Source: Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog
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