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Communication in elite team sports: An investigation of identity leadership, intrateam communication, and cohesion in team sports

In summary, our findings expand our understanding regarding some of the underlying mechanisms that are prevalent within communication processes in elite team sports.

Gaute Sørensen Schei

PhD Candidate

Gaute Sørensen Schei will defend the thesis Communication in elite team sports: An investigation of identity leadership, intrateam communication, and cohesion in team sports for the PhD degree 30 October 2023.

Summary of the thesis

The aim of the thesis was to investigate aspects of communication in elite team sports. This was addressed through three different research aims, involving three separate scientific papers: PI) investigating the relationship between identity leadership, intrateam communication and task cohesion in elite team sports, PII) understanding and measuring humor communication in team sports, and PIII) investigating communication processes in and between teams prior and during a collective collapse in an elite football match.

The first study identified a positive association between identity leadership and task cohesion, mediated by the intrateam communication dimension acceptance. Conversely, the intrateam communication dimension distinctiveness did not mediate the relationship between identity leadership and task cohesion. Overall, results regarding associations between identity leadership, acceptance, and task cohesion offer support for the theoretically informed performance-related benefits of identity leadership in elite team sports.

In study 2, our results supported a three-factor structure of humor climate in team sports including positive humor (e.g., players do funny things), negative humor in-group (e.g., players and coaches use negative humor about each other to be funny), and negative humor out-group (e.g., players use hostile humor about people outside the team). Testing latent variable correlation revealed that positive humor was positively related to group integration social, and negatively related to social conflict. Further, negative humor in-group and out-group were both positively related to social conflict.

The third study revealed that the first IK Start goal generated a positive momentum in IK Start which involved positive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral reaction chains. In contrast, for Lillestrøm (LSK) it was perceived as a critical incident which led to a negative momentum in LSK, including counterproductive emotional and behavioral outcomes. The next two goals by IK Start further increased the negative behavior and counterproductive communication within LSK, thereby influencing team coordination. Results highlight that intrateam contagion of negative (LSK) and positive (IK Start) emotions were prevalent during in-game processes after the 4–1 goal. Further, our findings indicate that interteam contagion was occurring, where IK Start players gained belief and energy when observing the increase of negative communication and change of behavior in the LSK team, strengthening the belief within IK Start that they could win the qualification match.

These findings are discussed in the thesis related to communication in team processes and communication during in-game processes. In summary, our findings expand our understanding regarding some of the underlying mechanisms that are prevalent within communication processes in elite team sports.      

Find more about time and place for the doctoral defence.