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Starting with the basics, an efficient and effective sports team is a collection of two or more athletes who have a common identity, set of goals, objectives and fate. Its members show structured patterns of interaction and styles of communicating. They view the structure of the team in the same ways.
There is a mutual reliance upon one another to be connected personally and perform their skills. In other words, the team is a source of mutual benefit for the members. The athletes of a team need to be attracted to each other and think of themselves as a part of a “we” that differentiates them from “they.”
The definition of cohesion — `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’ (Carron et al.
, 1998, p. 213) Group cohesion is a set of forces acting on members of a group, this tends to keep them within the group. Involves resistance to group disruption, commitment to group goals and individual responsibility for the achievement of goals. Factors in developing a team concept and cohesiveness
Situational Factors. Players in Close Proximity to each other will tend to bond together. Team changing rooms, residences, and shared means of transportation increase interaction.
A team becomes more distinctive when it is identifiable in such as a uniform, mottoes, initiations and privileges. Even though the actual season lasts a few months, a team that practices all year will become more united. The Size of a team has significant impact on unity. Task cohesiveness decreased with increase in size.
Personal Factors. Similarity in commitments, ability, attitudes and goals are all associated with team unity. However, the most important factor in the development of cohesiveness is individual satisfaction. Recognition from others (parents, team mates, coaches and the public), improvement of skills, affiliation, and quality of the competition are components of this factor. Leadership Factors.
A way in which cohesiveness may backfire is when a new coach is brought in. One of the effects of high cohesion is that there is an over estimation of members’ contribution to success. Non-members are considered to be irrelevant to achieving team goals. This is likely when a popular and successful coach has been replaced. It is one of the main reasons why successful football, rugby and hockey teams tend to hire assistants as head coaches. A good example of this is the Liverpool “boot room” Roy Evans was the last example of this. They are part of the organization’s history already. Sometimes outside hiring results in the need to replace talented players who have been with the team for a long time.
Compatibility between team mates and the coach is a vital factor in team cohesiveness. Lastly, the more the coach allows his players to participate in decision-making, the greater the team will become united. Team Factors. When you put the same people in a close geographic location over a significant period of time, a group is formed that has five significant components (roles, norms, stability, goals and rewards and communication). These parts become contributors to the success or failure of a group in meeting goals. This is as true for a sports team as another other type of group.
As a result of on-going interactions that take place among team members, Informal Roles evolve (team leader, enforcer, team clown, etc) examples of all of these are such as Roy Keane, Tony Adams, Paul Gascoigne respectively. If, for a period of time, someone who has played even an informal role, leaves the team, the management may have to hire a new player to fill the informal role. A team’s effectiveness is high when the players’ understand their roles (Role Clarity), accept their roles (Role Acceptance) and try to perform the roles to the best of their ability (Role Performance).
A coach can improve role clarity, acceptance and performance by making the behaviour requirements explicit, minimize the status difference between roles, and create an effective goal-setting program. The impact of an effective goal-setting program is to direct the player’s attention and behaviour, provide motivation to develop strategies for goal achievement, increase interest and prolong activity.
The presence of Norms is also associated with increased cohesiveness. Norms signal a team’s feelings about behaviours that are acceptable. When a new member comes to a team, it is the manager/player interaction norms that are confronted first. As cohesion increases so does conformity to the group’s standards of behaviour. If a player ignores norms, punishments are given. This is true even when a player performs above the standard expected.
The team’s productivity norm is a key factor in the relationship between cohesion and productivity. When cohesion is low and there is a high norm for productivity, that team will outperform teams with a low norm. If team cohesion is high and norm for productivity is low, the performance level will be low. And finally, if a team’s cohesion is high and the norm for productivity is high, performance will be high.
A norm that has been established on a team will last for at least four generations after the original players have left. This is an indication of the stability of a team’s norms. A problem exists when a manager takes over a team that has developed negative norms. Examples of such norms include abusive behaviour toward officials or other team members, a lack of commitment to team practices, and a focus on individual verse team goals. In such cases, the manager would have to enlist the formal and informal leaders to create a positive norm. Should these leaders not cooperate, the organization might need to replace personnel.
The modern day sports world offers much recognition and rewards to individual players. It makes the coach’s job of creating team unity more difficult. By emphasizing the group’s goals and objectives over a single player’s, the manager will create greater group cohesion. As a team reaches higher levels of cohesion, communication also increases. On the other side of the same coin, the more task and social communications occur, the greater the sense of team cohesion is produced.