Groups & Teams In Sport

Groups and teams sports psychology

The aim here is to understand the reasons for success and pitfalls involved in team sport participation (Equivalent to UK A Level Physical Education)


Team: “Two or more persons interacting with one another and influencing each other” (Shaw, 1976)

Group: “Has a collective identity, sharing a common purpose with structured communication patterns” (Carron, 1980)

Group Performances

The following equation was produced by Steiner (1972) to demonstrate the relationship between performance of the team and the individuals:

Actual productivity = best potential productivity – losses due to faulty processes

These faulty processes can be divided into two groups:

Co-ordination problems:

Tactics and plays involving more than one individual (most in team sports!) are subject to problems due to a lack of coordination. Examples include making a run too early or a poorly time pass.

Motivational problems:

Team performances often result in individuals performing below their best, there are two theories as to why this is often the case:

The Ringlemann effect:

Research has demonstrated that a team does not usually work as many times better than the number of individuals within the team. For example, a tug of war team containing 6 members, may not perform 6 times better than an individual. This is due to:

Social loafing:

Team players lose the motivation to work as hard because their efforts are not clear and a good performance is not wholly dependant on their performance.

Cohesion and Performance

Cohesion: The reason that a group of people has come together and the resistance to the group breaking up

Two types of cohesion may be present in different teams:

Task-oriented cohesion: The team exists and survives in order to be successful at the chosen sport. Everyone in the team has the same goal

Social oriented cohesion: The team exists and survives due to the social relationships and interactions within the team. Results do not really matter, enjoyment is key to the team’s survival

Task-oriented teams have a higher potential for success than social-oriented teams. This is especially clear in sports such as football and basketball, as opposed to badminton and athletics.

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