The Potential Costs of High Cohesion in Sport Teams

Jennifer Milne, David Lavallee (Supervisor), Pete Coffee (Supervisor)

Research output: Other contribution


Cohesion is essential for team harmony and performance. It is universally sought in sport teams. The benefits have been extensively studied and are a requirement of team success. Counter to wide held belief, cohesion is not an intrinsically positive phenomenon. This thesis aimed to develop more understanding of the potential disadvantages or costs of high cohesion in sport teams to fill a significant gap in the literature. Study 1 examined the extent and nature of these costs. Athletes perceived similar costs. Fourteen categories of costs were identified with perceived pressures and communication issues demonstrated to be strongly significant. Study 2 was framed in narrative theory to explore costs experienced over the life-span career of a retired professional motor sport co-driver. The most significant costs experienced were pressure to perform and pressure to conform. The key influencing factors were a performance narrative along with what was identified as a new narrative type, the team performance narrative. Study 3 utilised the lens of narrative theory to explore when and where costs were not experienced by a current elite motorsport sport driver and his team. Buffers were indicated. Study 4 was a case study of a high performing team where across the entire season team cohesion was high but performance wasn’t reciprocated accordingly. High cohesion produced costs of conformity and normative influence, rigid demands and methods with narrow goal focus, communication issues and pressure to perform. These costs are all inter-related and interacted to have a negative impact on performance. This thesis raises awareness of the potential costs of high cohesion in sport teams and, by offering a new model – the Cohesion Costs’ Reduction Model - for identifying strategies to minimise these potential costs, aims to improve individual wellbeing in a team and improve team performance.
Original languageEnglish
TypePhD Thesis
PublisherUniversity of Stirling
Number of pages227
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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