Team cohesion as a discursively negotiated process – An ethnographic study of a professional football team.

Publikation: Bücher und AnthologienDissertationsschriften


A professional football team represents a unique social environment where team members have to negotiate the omnipresent competition for places while working together towards a common goal. In this exceptionally competitive and high-stakes environment team members have to navigate their individual as well as collective team goals – which do not necessarily overlap. With this regard, sport psychologists, coaches and the media have long established team cohesion to be a central impacting factor for success – hence, on the whole, something ‘positive’ and measurable.
However, the underlying conceptualisations of team cohesion in sports teams appear to lack empirical evidence in relation to what the phenomenon actually entails. Focusing on humour use and function, I offer concrete empirical evidence for the phenomenon in action illustrating it to be a dynamic, ever-changing process that is discursively negotiated by the interactants involved. To this end, this study provides a micro-ethnography of a male professional football team from Germany. Over 56 hours of audio-recordings of authentic interactions, 87 hours of observations and interviews with 13 players are used to analyse the ways in which team members discursively negotiate team cohesion among themselves. For this purpose, interactional sociolinguistics as an ethnographically led approach to discourse analysis is used.
Findings show that group membership management and identity construction are central impacting factors shaping the ways team cohesion is negotiated in and through language among members of the football team. The value of both an ethnographic research design and discourse analysis for unpacking some of the complexity of the phenomenon is shown. Moreover, I argue that humour constitutes a useful discursive strategy through which to study and unpack team cohesion – ultimately illustrating the link between team cohesion and communication. Thereby, I am bridging the gap between mostly quantitative studies and discourse analytical work on team cohesion.
Anzahl der Seiten267
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 10.2020
Extern publiziertJa