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  • Sport Psychology Case Study: A women’s community college softball team. Part 3. Team cohesion

    Team sports, such as softball, require groups of people to work together toward a common goal. When teammates are able to cohesively work together the team, as a whole, can become greater than the sum of their parts as individual players. However, how do teams learn to work together cohesively? In a previous article, I introduced a sport psychology case study of a community college softball team composed of players with little softball experience, who faced great adversity on and off the field. In the subsequent article, I described how I introduced the team to the growth mindset. In this article, I will discuss how we worked together to help build team cohesion.

    What is team cohesion?

    In general, team cohesion is a broad term referring to how well a team is a able to work together toward a goal. In order to help the team work together, we focused on developing two subtypes of cohesion: social and task cohesion. Social cohesion refers to the social and emotional bond shared by a group whereas task cohesion refers to a groups ability to work interdependently to complete a task.

    How do you build social cohesion? 

    We had team meeting each week for about 30 minutes to work on the mental game. we would often start each of these meetings with a simple ice breaker. Often times, each player would take turns briefly answering a simple question such as “What is your goal for the day?” or  “What is your proudest achievement in softball?”  “Who is your hero?” These questions sound simple. However, they gave the players the opportunity to open up to each other, offer each other encouragement, and deepen their friendships with one another.

    How do you build task cohesion?

    In order to build task, I introduced the team to initiative games, which are seemingly silly games that require people to work together to solve problems. These games often involved novel tasks that helped the players to focus under pressure, which in turn, helped them to focus under pressure in softball. For example, one initiative game involved players using a single chopstick to stack hex nuts on their side. This may sound simple, but it is quite challenging under pressure. During initiative games such as this, we would often pause to discuss the mental game. Players would reflect on their performance working together to stack the hex nuts by examining their self-talk, their breath, their communication with each other, and anything else that helped or detracted from their performance. The players typically enjoyed these games and found that they helped social cohesion as well.

    Softball seasons are long and emotionally and physically demanding. The work that we did together building team cohesion, especially through the use of initiative games, helped to unify the team during a season that consisted of fewer peaks than valleys.

    In part 4, I will discuss how the team worked to develop the mental skills needed to thrive in softball. If you are interested in learning more about if sport psychology, conducted online, would be helpful for you then schedule a free phone or video consultation.

    Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He provides online therapy (telehealth) by way of the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and all over California.