Critically Evaluate The Relationship Between Team Cohesion and Performance in Competitive Sport.

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Critically Evaluate The Relationship Between Team Cohesion and Performance in Competitive Sport.

Within sports performance or sports situations, groups are visible to any level, whether they are competitive, spectative, administrative or managerial.  Bass (1960) defined a group as a collection of individuals whose existence as a collection is rewarding to the individual.  This may ultimately be associated with sporting success when placed in a sporting situation, however socialisation may be the reward gained from any spectators.  It could be therefore important to distinguish a team from a group, Weinberg and Gould (1999) highlighted that a team shows more obvious interaction than that of a group.  Furthermore Weinberg and Gould (1999) suggested that a collective identity is a distinguishing characteristic for teams.  Such examples may come as team names, reputations or rankings.

               A team although has to survive and work together in order to establish success.  The force that holds the team together was described as cohesion.  Many definitions have been put forward to describe this concept.  Festinger (1950) described it as the resultant forces, which are acting upon members to remain within the group. Cohesion can be defined on two determining factors: Task cohesion and Social cohesion.  Weinberg and Gould (1999) addresses task cohesion as the degree to which members work together to achieve common goals, i.e. winning a match or championship, or simply meeting pre set goals.  Whereas social cohesion is the degree to which members of a group like each other or interact with each other (Weinberg and Gould, 1999).  In highlighting the two factors of cohesion Festingers definition could have been regarded as being too narrow and therefore Carron (1998, in press.) defined cohesion as “A dynamic process, which is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives and / or for the satisfaction of member affective needs”.  

        It has often been suggested in many studies the effects of cohesion on team sport; (Williams and Widmeyer, 1991; Grieve et al., 2000; Terry et al., 2000).  The aim of this essay is to critically evaluate the link between cohesion and performance and determining the factors, which may affect the linkage.

        In team sports it has been generally assumed that a positive relationship exists between cohesion levels and performance (Carron, 1988; Grieve et al., 2000) Relationships between cohesion and performance has been proposed to be 83% positive (Widmeyer et al., 1993).  Research has however suggested many different factors to the degree of the relationship.  Cohesion affecting factors may be explained using a model suggested by Carron (1982).  This model identified team factors, personal factors, environmental / situational factors and leadership factors.  Ultimately if cohesion can predict performance then the effect must come from one or more of the 4 factors, and throughout research this has been true, as many authors have assessed matters such as group size (Widmeyer, Brawley and Carron. 1990), whereas leadership characteristics such as trust  (Dirks, 2000) have been examined.

        Situational factors relate to the forces that are holding the group together (Carron and Dennis, 1998).    Weinberg and Gould (1999) suggested that group size is one of the situational characteristics that has to be considered.  As cohesion is believed to affect performance, and in that very nature groups exist in many different forms throughout sport.  The size of the group may actually effect cohesiveness and performance levels.  Early research by Slater (1958) suggested that an increase in group size was linked to lower enjoyment levels within the group.  This may be attributable to less responsibility for each individual.  Such an increase of group size may also proceed an increase in crowded feelings and lower cohesion levels within the group (Widmeyer et al., 1990).  Interlinking with the cohesion-performance levels the group size may help support an approach suggesting that cohesion may infact influence performance.  Using Steiners (1972) Model of Productivity, a greater group size may increase faulty processes due to a lack of coordinated effort (Ringelman effect ). However it could be established that those who have a more cohesive group and therefore will show a more coordinated approach to the task activity will produce a lower level of faulty processes.  Further backing up claims that cohesion effects performance in the long-term.  A quote by Ben Franklin (1776) may sum up coordinated approach within all aspects of sporting situation.  “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” In regards to social loafing and the cohesion / performance linkage, Mullen and Cooper (1994) highlighted that the interaction was an important determination of the linkage.  Although in contradicting statements with the paper Mullen and Cooper (1994) suggested that although interaction may be a determining factor of the linkage; interpersonal attraction or group pride could not be suggested as independent predictors of the cohesion-performance link within sport.  Situational factors may also relate to what type of sport the team is involved in (Lander and Lueschen, 1974).  

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Most research within sports has been completed on those who participate in a team, although as mentioned previously a team could be as little as 2 members.  In a golfing situation or in individual sports cohesion still does occur, but usually between opponents, such sports as regarded as co-active.  Whereas team sports are referred to as interactive sports.  Studies have been conducted on such groups, to see if differences exist to try and summarise a cohesion performance effect. (Kozub and Button, 2000; Grieve et al., 2000; Williams and Widmeyer, 1991).  Kozub and Button (2000) studied both rugby and swimming teams ...

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