Teams in transition: an ethnographic case-study highlighting cohesion and leadership in a collegiate athletic team
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While a great deal of theoretical work has been conducted describing group development, there is an underdeveloped area in the examination of the development of a group or team that is faced with constant transition. The purpose of this dissertation is twofold. First, this dissertation seeks to understand how cohesion is developed within a collegiate athletic team that has players come and go each season and, at times, within a season. Second, this dissertation explores how the coaching staff sustained and managed the cohesion within the team. To explore these issues, an ethnographic study was conducted with a Division 1- A, collegiate basketball team called Private U. Over 50 practices were attended and 20 formal interviews were completed. Results showed that cohesion occurred through social and task forms and in varying contexts. The coaching staff, and specifically the head coach, used self-handicapping to protect his players and thereby potentially keeping division from happening among team members. The lens of Symbolic Convergence Theory is utilized to discuss specific cohesion-forming moments during the season. Communication about cohesion transpired through interactions between the coaching staff and the players, and in fact, even between the coaching staff and prospective players who were being recruited to play for Private U. The coaching staff attempted to convey memorable messages and provided legal incentives to recruits because the importance of building cohesion begins with the players that the staff would get to come to Private U. Through on and off-court interactions, the coaching staff managed the cohesion on the team that had been created, but this was not always an easy task. Through the use of Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory and Dialectical Theory, I examined how in-groups and out-groups were experienced by some of the players. The desires from Private U team members to compete with their teammates for playing time, but also to want the best result for the team created a dialectical tension for team members that is discussed through the Competition-Cooperation dialectic.
Browning, Blair Wilson (2007). Teams in transition: an ethnographic case-study highlighting cohesion and leadership in a collegiate athletic team. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from