Group Cohesion and Team Building

What is Cohesion?

The most widely accepted definition for cohesion in sport is that it is “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” (p. 213)(1).


This may apply to any group of individuals – a coaching staff, a sport team, or a group of individual sport athletes who train together. While most of the research on cohesion in sport has been done with teams, you can try to increase the cohesion of other sport-related groups by applying the team building principles we’ll discuss. Cohesion’s dynamic nature means that as a team evolves, so too do the reasons for why members remain part of that team.

For example, an athlete may join a soccer team in order to learn new skills and satisfy his/her competitive drive; however, that athlete may choose to return to the team the following season because she/he wants to maintain friendships with other players on the team. This example also reflects that a group may be cohesive in terms of their performance goals (i.e., task cohesion) – whether it is to build skill or win a championship – but they can also have cohesion related to their emotional needs (i.e., social cohesion), such as making new friends, finding a support group of similar individuals, or maintaining friendships. Depending on the goals of the group as a whole, one form of cohesion may be more important than the other, or both may be equally important to the performance of the team.

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