5 Ways a Sports Psychologist Can Improve Team Cohesion

Using Sports Psychology to Build Team Cohesion

  • Building Respect
  • Building Communication
  • Task Focus
  • Leadership
  • Team Culture

People who are working on a sport psychology degree will probably study the concept of cohesion since it is an important one in the field. It refers to the degree to which team members feel a part of the group and work together toward a common goal. Below are several of the ways sports psychologists can help teams achieve this cohesion.

Building Respect

One of the first goals for a sports psychologist is to build respect among team members. Team members may not always get along with one another, but if there is a baseline of respect, they can continue to work together even when there is conflict. A psychologist may help a team build respect by teaching members to acknowledge one another’s contributions and ideas even when they do not always agree and understand that all of those contributions and ideas are part of an effort to help the team reach its goals.

Building Communication

Building communication is critical for team cohesion. Team members must be able to communicate both verbally and nonverbally on and off the playing field. A sports psychologist can teach athletes how to communicate constructively with teammates. For example, some players may feel that another player is playing poorly and having a negative effect on the team overall. Instead of attacking this player, team members can be taught to approach the problem in the spirit of helping the player improve for the overall good of the team. Communication about the problem might include talking to the player about what is going on out on the field and what that player might need for performance improvement.

Task Focus

Working together toward a common goal is one way to build cohesion within a team. This may seem built in with sports teams, which are already focused on the main goal of winning each game. However, teams do not automatically have the need cohesion to come together and accomplish this. During the pre-season, they need smaller tasks to focus on to start to build that cohesion, and they need to continue that focus during the season itself. An article in The Sport Journal examined the role of competition in creating team cohesion and made a number of recommendations for setting up scrimmages for team sports such as football, rugby, and soccer.

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The concept of leadership is an important element in team cohesion. Depending on the sport, there may be a team leader or team captain. The team must learn to work effectively within this leadership structure. However, in order to achieve true cohesion, individual team members must also learn to step up at times and take leadership positions both on and off the field. Techniques from sports psychology can help develop and enhance this sense of leadership.

Team Culture

Underlying smooth team cohesion is a team culture that supports that cohesion and all of the above are parts of creating an effective team culture. An article in Psychology Today discusses the importance of building this culture by explicitly defining the team’s values and goals and identifying how they can be reinforced.


A sports psychology degree prepares a person to work with athletes and make them more effective by building motivation and teamwork. Creating and reinforcing team cohesion is one of the most important tasks for a sports psychologist in leading a team to success.

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