The team building intervention program utilized in the present case study is a field-tested version of a "hands-on" approach conceptualized by Yukelson (1997). The framework behind the intervention program consisted of the following components: shared vision, role clarity-acceptance, strong leadership, individual/team accountability, team identity, and open/honest communication. The intervention program was delivered to two Division I women's soccer teams. On a team by team basis, the specific intervention programs and the consultant's delivery of said programs were evaluated to determine the degree to which each intervention contributed to team unity and performance, the two primary goals of the intervention. A valid, reliable evaluation inventory, the Consultant Evaluation Form (CEF; Partington & Orlick, 1987), was utilized to achieve the program evaluation objectives. Overall, the results demonstrated that both of the teams rated the team building intervention as being "helpful" in enhancing individual per formance (means of 2.8 and 3.1, respectively), "very helpful" in enhancing team performance (means of 3.1 and 3.9, respectively), and "very helpful" in improving team unity (means of 3.1 and 3.5, respectively). In addition, recommendations for future intervention effectiveness research are also discussed.
The team building model utilized as a framework for the current field-based study was devised by Yukelson (1997). This model was used in the current study due to its direct service approach conceptualized via prior team building research, applied techniques, and interviews with coaches and athletes from Penn State University. The framework behind the team building intervention program consisted of the following components: (a) shared vision (consisting of common goals and complimentary roles); (b) collaborative and synergistic teamwork; (c) individual-team accountability; (d) team identity; (e) positive team culture and cohesiveness; (f) open and honest communication. The seven stages of team building, which represent general implementation procedures, were as follows:
Stage One: A formal needs assessment is conducted by coaches (and consultant) who specifically attempts to answer the question, what does this team need to do to be successful?
Stage Two: Using this information, coaches (and consultant if needed) develop a specific plan, addressing how they can get the team to improve upon these needs.
Stage Three: An initial team meeting is conducted between the team and coaches; the meeting consists of an educational orientation about what team building is, and then the coach can facilitate brainstorming sessions on what this team needs to do to be successful (coaches list their comments and those from the players on a blackboard or equivalent).
Stage Four: The team prioritizes their input (most important needs), and then additional brainstorming is conducted to define each point, and how it can be assessed and accounted for.
Stage Five: Follow-up meetings can be conducted to develop short/long range goals and action plans (how do we plan on achieving these goals?).
Stage Six: Follow-up meetings can include evaluation of team's progress on their standards and goals (via rating sheets and open discussions). It is absolutely critical to provide feedback/evaluation to the players for the intervention to have maximal effect.
Stage Seven: Team meetings can then be setup to deal with conflicts which may occur during the season.
Effective teamwork can often be the difference between success and failure. This can be exemplified by the paradox whereby teams full of talented players fail to use their individual resources and fall short of standards, while teams with less talent and resources are successful and exceed their expectations (Hardy & Crace, 1997). Effective teamwork has been conceptualized as: (a) taking advantage of the various abilities and backgrounds of its members; (b) interacting and working toward shared goals; (c) balancing the needs of the team with the needs of the individual members; (d) structuring methods of communication (Carron & Prapavessis, 1997; Crace & Hardy, 1997; Carron, Spink, & Prapavessis, 1997; Yukelson, 1997). To assist athletes, coaches, and teams in enhancing upon these critical components of effective teamwork, a team intervention designed to positively effect team processes and team performance has been utilized called team building.
What has not been adequately addressed in the coaching and sport psychology literature is how to effectively implement and evaluate the effectiveness of psychological skill training programs (Cogan & Petrie, 1995; Vealey, 1988). Thus, the major purpose of this article is to detail the implementation of a team building intervention model with two university soccer teams. Another purpose of this article is to present the study results on the effectiveness of the team building intervention model in terms of improving team unity and performance. Based upon Yukelson's propositions about the model and the current author's familiarity with incorporating the model with collegiate teams (see Voight, 1998), it was hypothesized that the intervention program would have a positive effect on team unity and individual/team performance.
The sample consisted of two separate Division I women soccer teams who both finished in the top 3 in their respective conferences last season. Soccer team One was ranked in the top 20 the previous season. Soccer team One consisted of twenty players and three coaches, and Soccer team Two had sixteen players and three coaches. The soccer teams were from two different regions in the U.S.; Team One was from the South Region, whereby Team Two was from the Far West Region. For Team One, the mean age was 19.2 years (SD= 1.41), while Team Two had a mean age of 19.7 years (SD= 1.63). Both teams were adequately funded in terms of scholarship monies (9 full-ride scholarships). Both teams had numerous all-conference players returning (Team One had 3 players, Team Two had 4 players).
The Consultant Evaluation Form (CEF) (Partington & Orlick, 1987) was used to record athletes' perceptions on the effectiveness of the team building program. The CEF (8-items) assessed the effectiveness of the intervention on team unity and performance, by the use of two ratings criteria; the program's "effect on you" and the "effect on team". An eleven-point numerical scale for effectiveness ranged from "hindered/interfered" (-5) to "no effect" (0), to "helped a lot" (+5). Partington and Orlick (1987) reported an alpha internal consistency coefficient of.68, with a test-retest reliability coefficient of .81 across a 2-day interval. In addition, concurrent validity was evidenced by demonstrating positive correlation coefficients with perceived consultant effectiveness (r=.68, effect on you; r=.57, effect on team). For the current study, the Cronbach's alpha coefficient for the CEF was .85. Additionally, open-ended questions were included to request specific information regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the team building program.
The participating coaches contacted the main researcher to conduct this team building intervention program with their respective teams. A formal needs assessment was then conducted prior to designing the specific team intervention program (what were the teams' primary needs and what intervention strategies were appropriate for the particular needs). The needs assessment consisted of discussions with the coaching staffs primarily, yet the player feedback and input during the first few team meetings also aided in assessing the needs of the particular teams.
Soccer team One was taken through the intervention via a four-day workshop during their pre-season training sessions. The coaching staff conducted follow-up feedback and reinforcement of the program. The main researcher did provide feedback via weekly phone calls to the coaching staff. Soccer team Two was taken through this team building program, yet the intervention began after the team's sixth match, and lasted through the remainder of the season. Of course, the team building intervention was specifically designed to address specific team goals and needs. At the conclusion of each teams' seasons, the CEF was administered to determine the degree to which the team building intervention contributed to team unity and performance, the two major goals for the intervention. Table 1 lists the specific team building program per team, in terms of the timing of the intervention, need assessment plan, and specific interventions. Specific team building interventions for each team were conducted as follows:
Specific Interventions Applied to Each Team
Specific team building interventions for each team were conducted through numerous stages.
Stage One: Evidenced by Table 1; the needs assessed by the coach and consultant encompassed numerous areas. For Team One, major concerns included a lack of team cohesion, leadership and competitiveness in training. For Team Two, the team had an unexpected start, began doubting their talent and thus, were intimidated by ranked opponents, had little team unity and competitiveness during training.
Stage Two: For Team One, the plan was to utilize the team building intervention in one to two meetings a day for a four-day period, addressing individual/team goal setting, mental preparedness, and standards of performance in a collaborative effort. For Team Two, the team building intervention would be carried out during team meetings once a week, addressing team goal setting and how to improve mental readiness through the use of pre-game/pre-practice routines.
Stage Three: For both teams, the initial meeting began by explaining the purpose of the next few meetings, what team building is and how it helps individual athletes and teams, and the value of being open and active participants in the process. With both teams, team brainstorming was carried out to inquire about the "needs of this team" by having them as a group (Team Two) or in small groups (Team One) answer the question "what does this team have to do to be successful this season?" The team's input is written on a chalkboard.
Stage Four: Both teams then prioritized their input, from most to least important. The input reads well, and is exactly what coaches and sport psychologists want to see, but the big question is, what do all these "needs" mean, how can players improve upon these, and how can coaches and sport psychologists hold players accountable? As a group, both teams defined what each item meant, how these points can be assessed, and how they can be held accountable for working to improve upon these items. For example, Team One listed as a prime "need" was to improve upon their internal leadership. This meant that teammates are rewarded for maximal effort, if the game "goes against us", we get the team together to refocus, and we look for signs that a teammate may need a lift (via high five, pat on the back). To hold each other accountable, every week they would complete a rating form, asking each player how they did in accomplishing these behavioral indicators of leadership, citing examples.
Stage Five: Follow-up meetings for Team One addressed individual and team goal setting, accountability of team building standards of performance, improving mental toughness (by knowing what we have control over versus what we do not), and the use of pre-game routines and routines one can utilize during the "heat" of a match. Follow-ups for Team Two addressed accountability, team goal settings, how to deal with overintensity, and the use of routines.
Stage Six: With both teams, follow-ups also included evaluation of team progress on their standards and goals.
Stage Seven: With both teams, the consultant had player-only meetings setup to deal with conflicts, which may occur during the season. For example, Soccer team Two needed assistance in team communication issues, such as addressing teammate issues such as "how to tell teammates to work harder when you are just a freshman".
To evaluate the effectiveness of the team building interventions, players completed the CEF at the conclusion of the season. A within-group analysis was utilized to assess player perceptions on the effectiveness of the intervention on team unity and performance since a control group was not utilized in this study. Past intervention-effectiveness research has attempted to use a control group, with limited success however (Cogan & Petrie, 1995). Descriptive statistics and participant percentages were utilized to compute the necessary data.
Similar to the approach utilized in previous intervention studies, to determine the effectiveness of the intervention, Fenker and Lambiotte (1987) argued that "an evaluation based on the team's performance or attitude would conclude that the performance enhancement program was a success" (p. 230). The variables used to evaluate the effectiveness of the team building program included effectiveness ratings on team unity, individual/team performance, and open-ended responses regarding strengths and weaknesses. Table 2 summarizes the responses from both teams. Overall, the data indicates that both soccer teams evaluated the approach conceptualized by Yukelson, and applied by the main researcher, extremely high. The descriptive statistics and the open-ended responses (see Table 3) can thus imply that the athletes felt they benefited significantly from the team building program.
Individual and Team Performance
According to Table 2, both teams reported that the team building program significantly helped in enhancing their individual performance: Team One had a mean of 2.8 (range from -5 hindered to +5 helped), while Team Two had a mean of 3.1. Almost half of the players from Team Two rated the program above a 4. For team performance, both teams rated the program as significantly helping the team (means of 3.1 and 3.9, respectively), with over 80% of Team Two members rating the program above a 4.
Similarly with the results rating the performance of the individual and team, both teams rated the programs as being very effective at enhancing team unity. Team One had a mean of 3.1 (range from -5 hindered to +5 helped), while Team Two had a mean of 3.5. Over half of the Team Two players rated the effectiveness above 4.
The written feedback from the players were consistent with their descriptive "feedback" on the effectiveness of the team building program on individual/team performance and team unity. Combining the team responses (Table 3) for team unity, 31% of the players reported that it helped them come together as a team, and helped them to work together to find solutions (25%), and also enhanced team communication (10%). For performance, over 20% of the players cited that the program helped improve performance because it helped the team to focus on their daily/weekly goals. In addition, 14% of the players cited that the program helped because the meetings reminded the team about how they should be training/playing. An additional 10% reported that the program helped them by making them feel more motivated and focused.
The weaknesses of the program were also recorded, with 10% of Team One citing that the consultant was only with the team for a short while and wished he could have spent more time. Six percent of all players reported that they believed that meetings sometimes ran a little long and were a little repetitive, and 4% cited that it would be better to meet every two weeks instead of weekly.
The major purpose of this article was to introduce coaches to a team building program while also showing two ways of implementing said program. A secondary purpose was to show the evidence from an evaluation study that investigated the effectiveness of these team building intervention programs conducted with two Division I soccer teams. The effectiveness ratings and open-ended responses from the athletes were high, indicating that the players rated the program as effective in helping their individual and team performance, as well as enhancing upon their team's sense of unity. Major reasons cited for the value of the program included having the forum to voice one's opinions, helping the team come together and work together to problem solve, helping them to focus on goals and on their training/match play, as well as them feeling more motivated and focused on the task.
Often is the case in sport that success of a program is evaluated in terms of on-field performance. Both of the teams in this intervention study had very successful seasons, both representing "seasons of firsts". Both teams won their conference for the first time, both made their first trip to the NCAA tournament, and both made it through to the second round of the NCAA's. For both programs, this particular season was successful when compared with the last season, even though the strength of each teams' schedules were greater this season than last, and both teams had to deal with seniors graduating the season previous, as well as dealing with the numerous injuries that occur in a three-month season. Even though wins and losses do not adequately prove the efficacy of a team building intervention program, coaches and players certainly put a lot of attention and stock into the outcome. This is why the CEF and open-ended questions were valuable in determining the athletes' perceptions of the effectiveness of the team building intervention.
Despite the team building intervention in this study being conducted by the main researcher (a sport psychology-performance consultant), coaches are more than capable of being facilitators of this team building intervention program with their teams. Coaches may possibly be more effective than outside consultants because if the coaches facilitate the program, the players will be more invested into the program, thus, increasing the chances that the program will have a positive impact on performance and unity. Although facilitating this program will take some advance planning, some additional time during the pre-season training period, and attention throughout the match season, the many advantages of team building (enhanced performance and unity) can far outweigh the extra time and attention. For example, Team One was taken through a four-day team building workshop conducted by the main researcher, yet the coaching staff maintained the team building through the remainder of preseason and match season.
Despite there being a desired outcome (NCAA tournament, seasons of "firsts") and positive evaluations on the CEF and open-ended responses from the athletes and coaches (both coaches retained the main researcher's services for the next season), the evaluation of the team building program's effectiveness had limitations, however. First, the evaluation of the program's effectiveness only occurred one time (at the end of the season), as opposed to numerous times throughout the season. This continual evaluation could have provided further information regarding the impact that each specific component may have had on team unity and performance. Secondly, the intervention program implemented with these two teams may have to be modified to adequately meet the needs of other sport teams. As such, this team building intervention program is not a "one size fits all" program. Rather, it represents a general framework from which an intervention could be applied specifically to a team based upon their specific needs.
A final limitation concerns the use of within-team evaluations to determine the efficacy of an intervention, as opposed to the use of a more experimental design, such as the use of a control team (not exposed to the intervention), or randomly assigning members of the same team to treatment conditions. Using control groups or treatment condition groups within the same team to evaluate intervention strategies do however present ethical and practical challenges (Cogan & Petrie, 1995). This could be one of the contributing reasons for a lack of experimental design in field-based research. Despite these challenges, there is a continued need to determine the effectiveness of interventions through experimental methodologies.
Although limitations existed in the evaluation of the efficacy of this specific team building intervention program, qualitative (athlete reports) and quantitative (CEF results) evaluations tentatively supported the program's effectiveness. It is recommended that this particular program be implemented and formally evaluated with various other sport populations.
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Table 1 Specific Team Building Program by Team Team Building Variable Soccer Team 1 Timing: pre-season Time Available: 4-day session Needs Assessment: lack of cohesion lack of competitiveness lack of quality training large incoming class lack of leadership Consultant-Coach Plan: team building coach-player meetings (1 to 2 per day) team/individual goal- setting mental preparedness comprehensive follow-up by coach Specific Interventions: goal setting (individual & (via brainstorming, weekly team) worksheets & evaluations, pre-performance routines & open discussions) coping routines mental toughness controllability issues Team Outcome: 1st Conference championship 1st NCAA tournament 2nd round in NCAA's Team Building Variable Soccer Team 2 Timing: match season (began 3 weeks in) Time Available: weekly sessions (1-2 per week) Needs Assessment: bad start (2-4) returned 10 of 12 starters intimidated by top teams lack of competitiveness lack of mental preparation lack of unity Consultant-Coach Plan: team building player-only meetings (once a week) team goal setting mental preparedness standards of performance Specific Interventions: goal setting (team) (via brainstorming, weekly team communication worksheets & evaluations, mental toughness training & open discussions) pre-performance routines cohesion re-focusing plans overintensity issues Team Outcome: 1st Conference championship 1st NCAA tournament 2nd round in NCAA's Table 2 Effectiveness Ratings of the Team Building Program Evaluation Variables Soccer Team 1 Soccer Team 2 Effect on Individual Performance M(SD) 2.8 (0.62) 3.1 (1.12) % 10% 47% Effect on Team Performance M(SD) 3.1 (0.64) 3.9 (0.74) % 25% 80% Effect on Team Unity M(SD) 3.1 (0.69) 3.5 (0.83) % 25% 53% Note. % = Percentage of participants who rated highly for team building program's effectiveness (scores of +4 or +5). The three variables ranged from -5 (hindered) to +5 (helped/useful); the lowered percentages by Team 1 may be due to the limited time with the consultant (4-day workshop), which was reported by 35% of the players as a weakness of the intervention. Table 3 Frequency of the Open-Ended Responses Regarding the Major Strengths of the Team Building Program Responses: Strengths # % Team Unity Helped us come together as a team 10 28% Gave us a forum to voice our opinions 9 25% Helped us to work together to find solutions 8 22% Enhanced our communication 5 14% Since we designed the goals, helped us to be more accountable for our actions 3 8% Performance It was good to identify things that were going wrong 5 14% Helped us to focus on our goals daily/weekly 4 11% How to focus on our individual performance 4 11% Meetings reminded us about how we should play/train 3 8% Helped team cope better with problems/mistakes 3 8% Help me to have a positive attitude 3 8% Feel more motivated and focused 2 6% We paid close attention and applied it on the field 2 6%…