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The term cohesiveness has long been associated with the amount of ‘togetherness’ displayed by a team both on and off the field. Team cohesion is commonly defined as a dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency of a group to remain united in the pursuit of its goals and objectives (Carron 1982).
There are two dimensions within cohesion:
Research conducted by Lenk (1969) found that social cohesion was not an important component in achieving a successful performance in elite rowing, i.e., the rowers do not have to like one another for top performance. Sometimes, that’s just as well!
However, when contemplating the larger majority of active athletes (i.e., the non-elite) social cohesion may well prove to be quite important.
Performance success will facilitate feelings of greater cohesion and satisfaction. Similarly, cohesion itself will also result in a greater sense of satisfaction.
Satisfaction is how an individual feels about their participation in a team. If an individual has a high degree of satisfaction they are more likely to feel good about themselves and their participation and want to continue participating.
If a crew lacks the ability to gain satisfaction substantially through its performance in the short term, cohesion may provide the level of satisfaction required to maintain motivation. Thus, as performance improvements due to training have an opportunity to emerge, this reinforces the positive feelings gained from achievement.
Over time, encouraging participation at novice levels will increase both the size and standard of the pool of athletes from which elite squads are selected. In this light the development of social cohesion at a non-elite level may well be extremely important to any sport.
A ‘crew concept’ is essential for cohesion to develop and stems from five key issues (Williams 1986):
As the definition of team cohesion states, it is a dynamic process and implicitly therefore is capable of change, growth, modification and improvement.
Coaches can facilitate the development of social cohesion within their teams by:
In conclusion, team cohesion can be use as a tool by coaches, organizers and PE teachers to maintain participation in sport. The development of cohesion takes on even greater significance if the team has begun a season with poor performance and gains little satisfaction from their results.
If the individual feels a sense of belonging and has committed themselves to team goals, satisfaction will also be gained from the process of combined effort. In turn, this provides a source of satisfaction and the subsequent feelings of worth can provide motivation to carry on. Therefore, social cohesion is important at a non-elite level in order to provide a solid base for elite athletes to develop within.
If you’re interested in learning about formal strategies to develop team cohesion have a look at Developing Team Unity and Leadership.
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