by Andrew Richardson uploaded 26th July 2013

Performers do not exist in isolation; they form groups that have common features. Groups can vary in size, from a few individuals to large teams of players, coaches and a variety of support staff E.G. The British and Irish Lions is a prime example of a large team with a range of individuals with different roles. As Jeremy Guscott (British & Irish Lion) said "Lions tours are about bonding together...Success depends on whether you come together or split into factions...There were times with this Lions squad when we felt invincible - that we could take on the whole world and beat them." 

According to Carron (1980), these groups all exhibit the following characteristics:
- A collective identity
- A sense of shared purposes
- Structured patterns of communication

A racket player can move from singles to doubles and interact with a trainer or coach. Team games are based on units of players combining to function as a whole team (forwards and back in rugby, this can be sub divided into the front row, back row, half backs, back three etc). Players and coaches often attribute a team’s success or failure to how well the personnel of the team worked as a cohesive unit.

Building group identity, providing an environment where performers feel comfortable and willing to work with and for each other, and creating a spirit of unity is all fundamental to sport success. The dynamic of the group, the energy and functioning of the members as one, is a clear aim for a successfully performing group – cohesion acts as glue that binds and bonds individuals to a group identity and cause. Cohesion is defined as “the total field of forces that cause members to remain in a group)

Cohesion comprises both task cohesion and social cohesion:

- Task Cohesion: refers to the degree to which members of a group work together to achieve common goals, for example, to win a specific game.

- Social Cohesion: reflects the degree to which members of a team like each other and interact accordingly.

A school team made up of players who have played rugby since Primary 5 have very strong social bonds than a team of relative strangers. This is what the lions have to overcome and so far they seem to be doing that. Most of these players have played with each other or against for their clubs and country. Some have played with each other from young age and have their coaches on the tour as well. Also it isn’t just the lions that have to worry about group cohesion the Barbarians are another example. 

Building Group Cohesion – A Conceptual Model

There is clear evidence that the more united a group becomes with its cause, and the more interactive group members are socially within the group the greater the probability of success. Leaders in the sports environment should aim to develop cohesiveness within the group. The development of a group normally goes through 4 stages:

- Forming: the group meets or is assembled
- Storming: heightened tension may develop as roles are defined and tasks established
- Norming: rules and standards of behaviour are agreed as cohesion is built
- Performing: the group matures and works together.

Group Dynamics

The dynamic within the group is also an important consideration in building group cohesion. Group cohesion is defined as “a measure of the extent to which a group works together socially or to complete a task”. Group dynamics describes the processes within a group and between the members of the group. This can also be described as the energy the group exhibits. Successful groups with a dynamic have“chemistry”. This is difficult to guarantee – it depends on individual personalities, but can be the product of leadership and cohesion within a group. A clear goal and the nurturing of personalities all contribute to the dynamic within a group. Leaders will seek out individuals to join the group who have similar social and task characteristics and a shared ethos – groups are often fashioned in the image of the leader.

Carron identifies 4 factors that affect the development of cohesion:
- Environmental factors: that binds players together are age, club membership, location etc
- Personal factors: belief in the group, a desire to win, the social relationships within a community etc
- Leadership factors: the influence of the coach or manager in building identity and affiliation through task and social cohesion factors
- Team factors: in relation to the group as a whole, its identity, targets set, the ability and role of each member of the group.

Strategies and Methods for Enhancing Group Cohesion

Building on Carron’s 4D model there are strategies and methods for developing cohesion in a group.

Environmental Factors can be enhanced through:
- Holding training camps to build unity through external changes in social circumstances. The lions held their training camp in Carton House in Dublin this year to start the process of building the team.
- Ensuring all members of the group have equal importance and value by avoiding star billings
- Rewarding all players equally with praise or constructive criticism.

Personal factors can be enhanced through:
- Ensuring all member of the group feel ownership of the group
- Mixing young and old players together in groups, especially when staying away from home
- Developing a shared responsibility for success and a belief that all members are essential to successes of the group
- Creating a belief in the group and its task and social development
- Avoiding the formation of cliques voicing disenchantment with the group task or the social mix
- Identifying the reasons to why members individually want to be part of the group, and building on their motives
- Identifying those members who exhibits social loafing (makes less effort than they would alone), and introducing methods to incorporate them into the group.

Leadership factors can be enhanced through:
- Unite players in their belief in you as a leader through your leadership style and behaviour, mix autocratic and democratic style.
- Treat players as individuals, offer praise and criticism
- Avoid criticising players in front of the group.
- Get to know your members of the team: be aware of each person’s needs and their preferred way of interacting and style of motivation.

Teams can be enhanced through:
- The appropriate use of short, medium and long term goals.
- Clearly identifying member roles within the group as integral to the team ethic: avoid the Ringelmann effect (increased social loafing and loss of coordination as more members are added to the group)
- Devise and identify a clear system of rewards and punishments that the group that the group members have helped devise and have agreed to.
- Encourage social bonding through winter training camps or group social events.

Referencing from Edexcel Pe Textbook A2.





Andrew Richardson

Sports Psychology - Group Cohesion


Andrew is an 18 year old student at Coleraine Academical Institution. Andrew holds the world records in the squat and deadlift at -90kg T3 and is one of the brightest young talents in the country. He aims to pursue a degree in Sports Science.