Team Cohesion

by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD

In the discussion of team cohesion, any sport coach should understand that there are two types of cohesion; one is social and the other is task.  The research is pretty clear that for a team to be successful, they must be cohesive from a task perspective.  Social cohesion is nice but not necessarily needed for team success (1).  However, wrestling coaches are in a position to make both happen.

Social cohesion is determined by how much team members like being on the team and how they enjoy each other’s company.  Coaches might schedule activities designed to increase the social cohesion on a wrestling team.  For instance, the team members might all go to a skating party, play laser tag, or complete a high ropes course.  Other activities such as holding a team party, team dinner, and/or working to complete a community project can all contribute to building social cohesion.  However, social cohesion is not essential for success on the mat as exhibited by the poor personal relationship of Shaq and Kobe in their Los Angeles Laker championship days.

Utilizing the Shaq/Kobe example, it should be noted that although not friends, they were always on point from a task cohesion perspective.  When it was game time and they were on the court, they executed the basketball skills together in which they needed to win.  Wrestling coaches must be sure that all team members are on point from this task cohesion perspective.  How can they make this happen?

On strategy coaches might employ is to encourage drill partners to act as additional assistant coaches.  Wrestlers spend a lot of time with a partner drilling moves.  Often I have heard coaches structure a drill and assign one wrestler as the offensive (the person drilling) and one is defensive or the “dummy” (or the person being drilled on).  I suggest that one method of improving task cohesion is to have the wrestlers understand that the wrestler not executing the assigned move is actually an assistant coach.  If the wrestlers understand and accept that concept, they are in a position to applaud proper technique (positive reinforcement) and/or give positive constructive criticism to improve techniques during practice.  The ability of getting wrestlers to understand that they are important to the development of tactics and techniques should enhance the task cohesion of a wrestling team.

Finally, as noted above a team does not necessarily have to be socially cohesive to be successful, however it is surely more enjoyable.  Once on the mat; the wrestling team must be a cohesive unit from a task perspective in order to be successful.  And coaches are in a position to develop both social and task cohesion.

The NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual (Scholastic Edition) (2) offers some additional tips for building team cohesion.

“Find a way and make it happen”….dj


  1. Weinberg, R.S., & Gould, D (2015). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (sixth edition). Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.
  2. Caslow, D. (2008).Wrestling coaches resource manual. Manheim, PA: NWCA

Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind

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