The Psychology of Team Sport

Team sport

Team sport is an athletic activity that requires cooperation, communication, and a commitment to the goals of the team. This includes collaborating with teammates to execute strategies and tactics to win games. Some examples of team sports include football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, and tennis. This type of exercise promotes comradery and can help children learn how to cooperate with one another and communicate effectively, skills that will benefit them throughout their lifetime.

Unlike individual athletes who compete in self-organized leisure sports, sports teams practice together and often play formal competitive games. Moreover, the number of members in a sports team is fixed, as stipulated by rules or regulated by the league to which they belong. This makes sports teams distinct from other conventional groups in that they are required to concurrently compete and cooperate to a large extent while performing (cf., Rees and Segal, 1984).

Cooperation in this context refers to displaying behavior that enables other athletes to perform well, e.g., passing the ball to a teammate to score a goal. In contrast, accumulating individual performances to a joint “team” score, as in relay competitions or track and field events, does not entail behavioral interdependence.

Previous psychological research has identified a fundamental incompatibility between competition and cooperation, and the present study investigated whether engagement in a team versus an individual sport moderates this incompatibility. Results indicate that compared to individuals who engage in a team sport, individual athletes spontaneously reduce information sharing with uninvolved others during competition (vs. control) while team athletes do not.