Private instant message groups, cohesion and performance in sport: A mixed-methods case study


Online communication is a relatively new phenomenon that has yet to be addressed in the cohesion and performance literature. Online communication has been related to both positive and negative outcomes for users outside of sport, but there is little, if any, work looking at the effects of online communication in team-based sports. The purpose of this mixed methods case study was to explore how online communication impacted a team's cohesion and performance over a season. Using an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, an initial quantitative phase measured cohesion via the GEQ (Carron, Widmeyer & Brawley, 1985) and online networks among teammates to examine the potential relationship between high cohesion and a high frequency of online communication. A qualitative phase of coach and athlete interviews followed, integrating findings from the quantitative phase. Abductive analysis included both deductive and inductive phases to first compare the findings from interviews to other research in the field and second, to generate themes unique to the experience of the participating team. Quantitative analysis revealed no significant relationship between cohesion and frequency of online communication. Deductive analysis revealed support in the interviews for some theories and not for others. Inductive analysis generated themes of organized communication, inclusion and a general lack of tension among teammates. Actionable findings for coaches, athletes, mental performance consultants and researchers will be discussed. Online communication through instant messaging is growing and pervasive, therefore we should continue to explore any potential effects of instant messaging groups (full team or subgroups) on team performance.