Team Cohesion: Strategies for building cohesion

By Amy Rose – u3011321

In previous blogs I have attempted to outline team cohesion, its variables and how it relates to performance.  Below is a table adapted from Carron (1982) that summarises the variables and relationships within the team cohesion construct.  In this blog I will look to outline a few strategies that look to improve cohesion. 

See attached: Carron’s model for team cohesion (Weinberg and Gould, 2010, pg. 182)

It is important to understand how these variables relate to one another when undertaking a strategy to improve team cohesion.  In this blog I will look to outline a few strategies that look to improve cohesion with a view to improving performance. 

Goal Setting

Goal setting in itself is a large area of research for both its direct performance building and cohesion building success (Widmeyer and Ducharme, 1997).  There are several accepted principles in the process of goal setting, Widmeyer and Ducharme (1997) have summarised these specifically for the team setting. 

  1. Establish long term goals first
  2. Establish clear paths to the long term goals (short and medium term goals)
  3. Involve all team members
  4. Monitor progress toward team goals
  5. Reward progress toward goals; and
  6. Foster confidence in attaining the team goal

It is important when looking to implement any kind of goal setting strategy to make sure it is specific and relevant to the team and sport setting (Senecal et al 2008).  Widmeyer and Ducharme (1997) also outline that in order to be effective goals must be performance related not outcome related and that feedback is important as it improves subsequent performances.  Below is a table summarising a goal setting strategy adapted from research performed by Senecal et al (2008).

Table 1. Example of Team Goal Setting Program from Senecal et al 2008

Principle Implementation strategy
Selecting Team Goals 1. Athletes are provided with a list of performance indices (e.g., turnovers, steals, blocked shots, free throw shooting percentage).

2. From the list, each athlete independently identifies the four most important performance indices to establish for team goals.

3. Subunits of five athletes agree on the four most important performance indices that should be set for team goals.

4. The team as whole then agrees on the four performance indices that team goals will be set.

Establishing the target for the team goals 1. Each athlete independently identifies the target levels for each of the four team outcomes.

2. Subunits of five athletes agree on the target levels.

3. The team as a whole then agrees on the target levels.

Coaches remind players of the team goals The goals are posted in the team’s locker room.
Evaluation, feedback, and re-evaluation are essential for team goal–setting effectiveness. The team meets and discuss the goals after each block of three games. Modifications to the team’s goals or target levels were made if deemed necessary.


Indirect Cognitive Strategies

Many team cohesion building strategies can be classed as indirect interventions (Carron et al 1997).  These have been grouped together as they are mostly coach centred.  In these strategies the coach is taking responsibility for the leadership (or working with a captain or small leadership group) and becomes responsible for all goal setting and individual roles in the team (Carron et al 1997).  Carron, Spink, and Prapevessis (1995) have outlined some principles that have been shown to build cohesion in groups.  These principles fall under the categories of team structure, team environment, and team processes. These principles are further outlined below

See attached: Principles underlying team building in sport from Carron et al 1997

Some common strategies used that look to achieve these principles include:

  • Promote cooperation through skills and drills
  • Praise individuals for cooperation and effort
  • Assign highly effective team members extra duties
  • Promote open and continuous communication
  • Provide leadership opportunities for responsible team members

(Ryska et al 1999)

The implementation of these strategies will vary between coaches depending on the team’s needs.

Table 2: The main stakeholders in implementing team cohesion building strategies

  Goal Setting Indirect Cognitive Strategies
Individual Centred



Team Centred



Coach Centred



Third Party (sport psychologist etc)




Goal setting is largely team centred and relies on the team to implement and take charge of the process.  This is helpful as it is largely team centred and individuals feel responsible for the team and the outcomes ideally leading to an increased focus on the final goal (Widmeyer & Ducharme, 2007).  Poor performance or failure to reach the goals can have the undesired effect of lower cohesion and team fall out so it is important to monitor progress towards the goal and give constant feedback (Senecal et al, 2008).  Indirect cognitive strategies are the easiest to implement as they often require little effort and can be implemented during physical training programs with little extra time required.  Their effectiveness however depends on the coach and how well they are able to use these strategies to achieve the desired effect (Ryska et al, 1999).  Using a third party to train the coach can increase the effectiveness however there are extra costs involved with this and it may be prohibitive to many coaches at the amateur level. 

Research has shown that cohesiveness can be effectively measured and coached (Carron et al, 2002).  Therefore it could beneficial to the coach and the team to employ strategies to improve cohesiveness just as they would coach skill specific strategies in their chosen sport. 


Carron A.V., Colman, M.M., Wheeler, J., & Stevens, D. (2002) Cohesion and performance in sport: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 24, 168-188.

Carron, A.V, Spink, K, & Prapavessis, H. (1997) Team building and cohesiveness in the sport and exercise setting: Use of indirect interventions, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9(1), 61-72

Carron, A.V., Bray, S.R., & Eys, M.A., (2002) Team cohesion and team success in sport. Journal of Sport Sciences, 20, 119-126.

Carron, A.V., Spink, K.S., Prapavessis, K.  (1995) Team building and cohesiveness in the sport and exercise setting: use of indirect interventions. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9(1), 61-72.

Meyer, B.B. (2000). The ropes and challenges course: A quasi-experimental examination. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 90, 1249-1257.


Senecal, J, Loughead, T.M., & Bloom, G.A. (2008) A season long team building intervention: examining the effect of team goal setting on cohesion. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 30, 186-199.

Ryska, T.A., Yin, Z., Cooley, D., Ginn, R. (1999)  Developing team cohesion: a comparison of cognitive-behavioural strategies of U.S. and Australian Coaches. The Journal of Psychology, 133(5), 523-539

Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2010). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Human Kinetics.


Widmeyer, W.N, and Ducharme, K.  (1997) Team building through team goal setting, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9(1), 97-113




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