Posted in Category 1

Group Cohesion

Competitive sport is often performed as part of a team.  Many athletes enjoy being part of a team and actively seek out team sports as opposed to more individual pursuits.  Even athletes who have a talent in an individual sport, and compete predominantly as an individual often enjoy being part of a team as the quote below from tennis player John McEnroe illustrates:

“I always enjoyed being part of a team.  I loved the camaraderie.  It’s what I loved about Davis Cup.  It’s what made doubles so important to me.  If you’re on a team, and you’re angry or upset at something that happened in a game, you have people to share it with. It’s the same thing when you win. If you’re not at your peak, you can hide it so much easier in a team sport.  In basketball, you can play decent defense or set a pick; you can do a lot of little things that aren’t related to scoring.” (McEnroe & Kaplan, 2002, p.29)

    Athletes may perform as part of an interactive team where individuals are required to co-ordinate behaviour to achieve success (e.g., football, rugby) or a coactive team where success is a result of the compilation of individual performances (e.g., swimming, golf).  From an anecdotal perspective the way in which team members interact is often thought to have an impact on performance.  Indeed it is often suggested by commentators, managers and players themselves that a team of less talented individuals can beat a team consisting of more talented individuals if ‘they work together’.  Indeed one question you would hope to be able to answer at the end of the activity is ‘Will a champion team beat a team of champions?’  Because having a cohesive team is often considered desirable many coaches and organisations employ team building strategies.  By the end of this activity you should also be aware of a range of appropriate strategies that you could use to increase the cohesiveness of a team.  However, there are also inappropriate ways of enhancing cohesion as the example below illustrates.  This was a description of the ‘team building sessions’ that the South Africa rugby squad underwent prior to the 2003 World Cup.  Needless to say the coach was sacked after the tournament and the team did not do as well as they had hoped.

“The Springbok squad assembled at the camp in the bushveld weeks before the World Cup started and were sworn to an oath of silence about what took place… Reports said naked players were crammed into foxholes and doused repeatedly with ice cold water while the English national anthem and New Zealand’s haka were played over and over again. They were also forced into a freezing lake in the early hours of the morning to pump up rugby balls.  When some of the players tried to get out they were ordered back into the water at gunpoint.”

The New Zealand Herald

 (Wednesday, November 26th 2003)