Team Cohesion in Sport

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Team Cohesion In Sport

What is Team Cohesion in Sport? In this post, we discuss what team cohesion in sport is and how sports coaches can improve team cohesion.

We will discuss:

  • What is Team Cohesion in Sport?
  • What is the definition of Team Cohesion in Sport
  • Task Cohesion in Sport Vs Social Cohesion in Sport
  • Why is Team Cohesion Useful?
  • How can you improve team cohesion
  • Establishing the right environment

What is Team Cohesion in Sport?

Team Cohesion is a “Dynamic process which reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of goals and objectives” (Carron, 1982).

It is essentially how well a team works together and is crucial for a sports team to be successful. Our previous article on how to motivate your athletes talks about strategies to improve individual motivation and success (Read more here).

Successful team cohesion in sport is influenced by individuals’ view of their team and the objective set out to achieve. The success of football/soccer teams such as Liverpool, Manchester United or the success of New Zealand’s rugby team is based on how well the individual athletes are performing as well as how successful the team are working together.

The famous phrase of “there is no I in team” applies here. The book by Patrick Lencioni “The Ideal Team Player” gives a great perspective on how to improve team performance.

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Task Cohesion in Sport Vs Social Cohesion in Sport

There are two main areas of team cohesion in sport: Task Cohesion and Social Cohesion.

Task Cohesion is when a coach shares a set goal/objective with their team with a success criteria. Whereas, social cohesion is how well a team interacts. Both operate independently of each other and it is important for sports coaches to be aware that these can vary.

A team who are winning trophies have good task cohesion. However, if they argue and do not like each other, they then have low social cohesion. A team with task cohesion can be successful. However, would you want a lead a team if they did not like each other?

Why is Team Cohesion Useful?

Team cohesion is useful as it can both improve performance and motivation of a team. If a team work well together, this improves their team cohesion, this in turn improves performance. This then improves personal satisfaction. Thus improving team cohesion and then the cycle continues either on an upward or downward trend.

Team Cohesion In Sport

Tuckman, B.W. (1965) discusses the four main stages of team cohesion:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing

There is plenty of research on this area and most businesses and sport academies use this principle on their training.

How can you improve team cohesion?

Ultimately, the coach or manager is responsible for developing and improving their teams cohesion.

Below are our recommendations on how make your team work well together:

  1. The first step for a sports coach/manager is to clearly set goals for the team to achieve. For example, this could be to reach mid table by the end of the season or to concede no more than 20 goals in a season.
  2. The second step is to set goals for each individual in your team. To ensure all group members feel valued, we recommend meeting all the team first to decide the team goals. This improves the internal motivation of the team and individuals within the team.
  1. You then need to ensure you provide feedback to the players as well as to the team as a whole. Regularly ask for opinions of your players and listen to any suggestions from them. This will again make them feel valued. However, make sure you give any criticism privately.
  2. Establish the right environment. See below…

Read more on how you can improve the motivation of your team and what drives them in our article here.

Establishing the right Environment

Establishing the right environment is key! Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Kloop sums up this very nicely:

“The only thing I can say is that I like people; I like human beings with their faults and with their strengths.”

Jurgen Kloop

Developing the right supportive environment is key to creating a culture of success. Whether this be establishing your expectations during training or the professionalism of your athletes outside of the training ground. All coaches need to be there for their athletes and be able to support when need be. You may also find Jurgen Kloops Biography useful to read.

View Jurgen Kloop’s Biography on Amazon here.


To summarise, below are the key steps to what you can do to establish and improve team cohesion:

  1. Set team goals
  2. Set individual goals
  3. Provide feedback to individuals as well as a team
  4. Listen to your athletes/players feedback
  5. Work together to achieve the goal
  6. Reward effort and performance
  7. Recognise improvement
  8. Establish an environment for success by setting expectations and professionalism.

Want to read more? Why not visit our Sports Coaching Learning Centre for more articles on sports coaching techniques and strategies.

You may also be interested in the articles below:


Carron, A. V. (1982). Cohesiveness in sport groups: Interpretations and considerations. Journal of Sport Psychology, 4(2), 123–138.

Tuckman, B.W. (1965). Developmental Sequences in Small Groups, Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.

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