Cohesion seems to be one of those team factors that is continually talked about, but never quite defined. A general definition, according to Carron (1982) is the ability of a team to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its goals and objectives. Important factors in cohesion are the ability of the team to draw its members in (group integration), and each individual’s attraction to the team.
With these factors developed, a team tends to unite into a greater force, concentrated on a common goal.
Consider these practical methods of developing the factors of cohesion within your team. Also explore ideas outside the playing field, in order to gain a deeper appreciation of your players off the court.
Getting the team together outside the arena of practice and competition is always a good method of developing cohesion. It deepens the individuals’ interests in the group socially as well as allows the group to draw members in, who might be on the fringe. A weekend dinner at the coach’s house and a picnic at the beach are ideas for get-togethers outside the gym. You can also incorporate a project to go along with your get-together. Decorating pumpkins for Halloween, making Christmas decorations, or even performing service for a local food bank can draw a group together with a united focus on a task. Hopefully, this focus and bonding can transfer onto the court later.
Another method of creating cohesion within a group, whether the group is brand new or already developed, is to participate in activities which allow individuals to reveal themselves and to learn about others in the group. Filling out personality questionnaires and discussing them within the group helps people identify with one another and gives a stage on which they can express themselves. Many group games also provide an opportunity to learn about teammates. Games such as Pictionary, Charades, and spoons often lead to spontaneous moments of expression that lead to a better understanding of individuals.
Finally, creating a central theme around which the team can rally is a way of giving the group direction and purpose. A simple quote, story, or image can serve as an inspirational reminder throughout the year. The theme can be as simple as “Just do it,” or it can deal with an inspirational individual, such as an injured teammate or a person that has sparked your players to new heights. What is important is that the theme is easily remembered and inspires effort and enthusiasm in each individual.
Hopefully, this theme can be a uniting force, giving the players a feeling of being a part of something special and encourage them to give their best for the team.
Numerous studies have shown the correlation between cohesion and success. Does cohesion cause success, does success cause cohesion, or do the two factors simply build on one another? No one really knows, but the two seem to go hand-in-hand, and if we can encourage the development of cohesion, surely success will be right around the corner. And, depending on your personal definition of success, whether you win or lose, you will have a group of individuals who are united in their desire to achieve a common goal.