Sport Psychology - Team Cohesion Reduces Social Loafing & Improves Performance

Sport Psychology - Team Cohesion Reduces
Social Loafing & Improves Performance

Dick Moss

Do some of your athletes coast through practice and never give their all during competitions? This mediocre effort may be due to low motivation and has been termed "social loafing" by sports psychologists. Research has shown that the following two methods can effectively decrease social loafing.

1. Increase Team Cohesion
Athletes working within a close team are less likely to loaf. There are several reasons for this. First athletes are more willing to make sacrifices and work hard if they are involved in a common goal with people with whom they have a positive relationship.

Second, athletes feel greater pressure to perform if their teammates are people whom they care for and don't wish to disappoint.

Finally athletes who are part of a cohesive team are more likely to be cheered for and encouraged when they practice and perform. A recent research study (Hoigaard, Tofteland and Ommundsen) demonstrated that relay running teams with good team cohesion performed significantly better than teams comprised of strangers.

2. Increase accountability
Other research has shown that social loafing can be reduced through individual evaluation and public accountability. An example might be reading out individual split times in front of the entire relay team. Studies have show better performance when split times are revealed than when runners know that only the total time of the team will be made public.Unfortunately, there are dangers in using this method, since athletes who are giving 100 percent but lack the talent of their teammates may find themselves feeling humiliated by this public accounting of their performance.

A good way to improve the performance and motivation of each individual on your team is to increase team cohesion. This method is effective and doesn't risk the loss of self-esteem that your athletes might experience in a public airing of their performance.You can find a lot of team building activities such as the "Toilet Paper Icebreaker," in the Downloads section.


1. Jonny Bell, Micheal Manning, Sports Psychology: Inside the Athlete's Mind: High Performance - Sports Psychology for Athletes and Coaches (Sports Psychology Books), Kindle Edition, Sports Psychology Books, 2014.

2. Rune Hoigaard, Ingve Tofteland & Yngvar Ommundsen, (Agder University College, & Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education), "The Effect of Sports Sciences, 2006, Vol. 18, No. 1, 59-73.

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