Team-Building & Cohesion Tips to Help Coaches with On-Field Success
Team cohesion is a term we often hear in sports, but is a cohesive team necessarily a mentally tough and winning team? Actually, there are several layers of cohesion within a group, including social relations, task relations, perceived unity and emotions. OK, admittedly, drilling that deep on team cohesion might be better suited for a sport psychology lecture than a short blog post, so for the purposes of today’s blog I’ll keep it simple and look at two inter-related aspects to team cohesion: task cohesion and interpersonal cohesion.
A.) Task cohesion. This type of cohesion is viewed as the ways in which players perform with and alongside one another while competing. Setting personalities aside for a moment, task cohesion can be examined by how well a team carries out a play – how well do they know their individual roles and what they are supposed to do on the field/court? The best way to improve task cohesion is by drilling in practice — by regularly practicing a skill or play the players become “conditioned” (Classical Conditioning) until their movements and actions become automatic. This type of cohesion is maximized through practice and repetition until actions become second-nature.
B.) Interpersonal cohesion. This type of cohesion is defined by how well players get long with each other. Interpersonal cohesion increases as players become comfortable and aware of their individual roles, and develop confidence and respect for their fellow teammates around them. Notice that players do not necessarily have to become best friends, and in fact there are concerns to be aware of when players become too close and are unwilling or intimidated to confront one another (see “Group-think“). The point here is that a team (or group of people) can become too cohesive to the point where it becomes counter-productive if members don’t feel comfortable confronting one another when necessary.
Getting it right when it comes to team chemistry and cohesion is a tricky proposition, but it is a worthwhile pursuit if you are trying to maximize your teams success. Teams that are “well-oiled” know what to do on the field or court and move with agility, confidence, and conviction; these teams also have a healthy respect within the team as the players believe in one another yet are not afraid to confront problematic issues (or players). A team that is too enmeshed (or cohesive) usually doesn’t grow as fast, nor reach its full potential, as problems and issues are often never addressed because of the fear of having “hard feelings.”
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