By Dr Natalie Walker, Head of Sports and Exercise

Why do teams with great individual’s not always play as a great team? Why can teams who don’t have a squad of superstars  achieve huge success? Steiner’s Model of Productivity and the impact of team cohesion might offer us an explanation to these two questions.

Steiner suggested that Actual Productivity is a result of Potential Productivity minus Losses due to Faulty Group Processes. A football team will never score 110 (11 players with a maximum rating of 10 per player) due to some faulty group processes. A team might achieve a total rating of 77/110 for example and a loss of 33 points might have been due to co-ordination losses such as poor timing, poor team work or poor strategies and/or motivation losses such as lacking effort and desire (known as Social Loafing). So a team that has excellent individuals might not reach their potential due to the inability to co-ordinate together and/or the effects of some individuals in the team social loafing.

Team cohesion has been linked to Social Loafing in academia. When a team is cohesive members are more willing to make sacrifices for the group and hence are willing to invest more effort. For example, it has been suggested that the Leicester team of the 2015-16 season achieved great success in part due to their cohesiveness, their great energy, great spirit, and desire to work hard for each other. There is also some suggestion that members of a cohesive group may try to meet teammates’ expectations and hence this enhances effort too.

Recent discussions following England’s exit from the Euros has suggested that the team lacked cohesion, that they are talented individuals who play for themselves and not as a team. With expert medical, sports science, psychology and analysis at St George’s Park we cannot say the team do not have the expertise.  We might argue that despite the Premier League being one of the best in the World it is a league largely owned by foreign owners, managed by foreign managers and played by foreign players and that, as a result, the England set-up has been weakened, rather than strengthened. However we look at it, Iceland’s best 11 players beat England’s best 11 on the night and Wales appear to be going from strength to strength! So why is it, that two teams with arguably less talent/support than England have achieved more success?

Gareth Bale recently stated that for the Welsh team everything is about pride and fervor to represent the Welsh nation. He indicated that when they place on the shirt there’s no bigger honour for them ALL. Bale states. “You can easily see whenever we sang the nation’s anthem it had been absolutely absurd. Everybody was gripping one another within the line. We had goosebumps and everybody was crying around the pitch after. That’s just Wales. We play for that shirt and also the dragon. We give everything we have”. Bale made these claims with respect to the difference, in his opinion, between the pride and passion of the Welsh and English national football teams before their head to head in Euro 2016. He suggests that the Welsh side are more cohesive and literature suggests that more cohesive teams have greater success. Looking at my social media tonight after Wales have beaten Belgium there is much discussion about passion and teamwork.

Carron (see figure below) explained that environmental factors (e.g., contracts, organisational orientation etc) influence the individual (personal factors), the team, and the leader. Personal factors (e.g, individual satisfaction) and leadership factors (e.g., leadership style) also influence the team (i.e., task, desire for group success, group orientation, group productivity norms, team ability, and team stability). These factors then impact on cohesion (e.g., tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of goals and objectives). It is this cohesiveness which can affect the groups outcomes and the individual’s outcomes.


Environmental factors

An effective team climate can be so important at major Championships. Team climate is defined as how the members of a team feel when they are with each other. It can include the quality of the relationships between the members of the team and the quality of the relationship between the leader and the team members. It can also include other, more difficult to define characteristics, such as team spirit. Things such as social support, having a team bond/identity, being distinctive, and having a sense of fairness and similarity are all ways in which an effective team climate are promoted. The quote earlier by Bale relates to the ideas of a sense of similarity and a bond. One key feature of cohesive teams is their collective sense of identity. This is evident in the feelings of solidarity and cohesion, a sense of ‘togetherness’.  Teams with a collective sense of identity might be described as having a ‘great attitude’ and ‘working hard for each other’ and ‘looking after each other’.

Let’s hope that the Welsh sense of identity, team spirit and cohesion influence a positive performance against Portugal in the Semis!! What a game that is…Ronaldo v Bale. I’ll be supporting the Welsh given my PhD was honoured in Wales (that counts right?)!

More about studying sports sciences at Birmingham City University.

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