The Impact of Adventure-Based Training on Team Cohesion and Psychological Skills Development in Elite Sporting Teams
Adventure-based training has become an effective medium for delivering experiential training programs within a variety of disciplines such as; school outdoor education, corporate teamwork development, youth at risk and psychological counseling. In addition, Meyer & Wenger (1998) and Meyer (2000) were instrumental in pioneering research in to the efficacy of adventure-based training with sporting teams. This investigation adds to the growing body of knowledge in this area by demonstrating the positive effects an adventure training intervention has on athletes ability to learn new team and psychological skills. In addition, results indicated that individual and team performance might have been enhanced because of skills learnt during the intervention.
This study examined the impact of an adventure-based training intervention on the group cohesion and psychological skills development of elite netball players. Data was gathered using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Many researchers are of the belief that the two methodologies compliment one another and thereby strengthen the total research model (Henderson, 1993).
Thirty-six members of state age netball teams in NSW, Australia provided informed consent to participate in the study. Participants were either members of one of two treatment groups; the NSW under 17 (n=12) or the NSW under 19 (n=12) state netball teams. A control group from a rival interstate team made up the control group (n=12).
Quantitative data measuring group cohesion was assessed by means of the group environment questionnaire (GEQ) (Carron, Brawley & Widmeyer, 1985). The GEQ was derived from a conceptual model that considers cohesion to be a multidimensional construct that includes task and social aspects, each of which reflects both an individual and a group orientation. Four subscales of cohesion are contained in the GEQ, these include: Individual attractions to the group-task (ATG-T), individual attractions to the group-social (ATG-S) group integration-task and (GI-T) group integration-social (GI-S). Using a quasi-experimental design, students were administered two pre-tests and tracked at regular intervals throughout the intervention and sporting season with two post-tests, in order to ascertain longitudinal changes in group cohesion.
In order to quantify the impact of the intervention on group cohesion, a series of 3 (group) X 4 (time) repeated-measures analyses were conducted, with treatment group and time as the independent variables. Further testing was conducted using a series of analysis of variance tests to assess differences in groups at each time-period within each sub-scale. Post hoc Bonferroni tests were used to identify where these differences occurred. Finally, the longitudinal effects of the intervention were examined using effect size calculations. These were calculated for each group to determine the degree and significance of any change between each testing time. In three of the four sub-scales ATG-T, ATG-S, and GI-T highly significant differences were noted between the treatment and control groups. These significant results were supported by the athletes qualitative accounts of the intervention.
In qualitative terms, focus group and one on one phenomenological interviews were triangulated against observational and statistical data to help build a picture of the athletes experience. In the phenomenological tradition, obtaining the athletes perspective of the intervention was most important. With this in mind, both the outcomes and the process that led to the outcomes were documented.A phenomenological approach to qualitative data collection was followed based on the work by Dale (1996). Knowing how the intervention impacted on the participants from their perspective, is a critical question often overlooked by researchers. Results clearly indicated how athletes changed and developed during and after the intervention. Improved cohesion around task issues was especially evident, along with enhanced mental skills to handle the pressures of major competition. Lewin s change theory was examined to explain the learning process; modifications to this theory were suggested. Recommendations were outlined for improving sport psychology teaching practice, along with improved facilitation of adventure programming.