Mental Health Monday: Creating an Effective Team Climate


Have you ever taken a moment at practice to really look at your teammates; the way they struggle, thrive, and support you through the endeavors of a season? The relationships you have with your teammates form the team’s climate. More specifically, the way that each member of the team perceives and evaluates the interrelationships amongst one another creates an effective or ineffective team climate.

Hopefully, with your team you are looking to create an effective team climate; one that thrives on social support. Social support refers to “an exchange of resources between at least two individuals perceived by the provider or recipient to be intended to enhance the well-being of the recipient,” (Shumaker & Brownell, 1984, p. 13). ┬áResearch has revealed that social support can have a positive impact on a variety of behaviors and feelings such as: recovery from injury and coping with stress, burnout, and performance (Duncan, Duncan, & Strycker, 2005; Freeman, Rees, & Hardy, 2009; Gould, Tuffey, Udry, & Loehr, 1996a, 1996b; Rees, 2007). Additionally, social support has been linked to increases in feelings to team cohesion and team climate.

Because social support is a multidimensional concept, researchers (Rees, 2007; Rosenfeld and Richman, 1997) have outlined seven types of social support.

With cross country season in full swing, my hope with today’s article is to provide you with some ways to build an effective team climate through social support. Below I have outlined the seven types of social support and then various ways to enhance these on your team!

  1. Listening support – the perception that someone else is listening without giving advice or being judgmental.
    1. Provide group social events for the team to allow them to step out of their typical roles (#morethanarunner).
    2. Emphasize the value of regular, informal contacts between teammates.
  2. Emotional support – the perceptions that another person is providing comfort and caring and is indicating that she is on the recipient’s side.
    1. Stress the important of emotional support to team captains.
    2. Encourage the team to give emotional support to injured players.
  3. Emotional-challenge support – the perception that another person is challenging the support recipient to evaluate her attitudes, values, and feelings.
    1. Encourage emotionally challenging verbal exchanges between teammates (e.g. “You’ve been practicing that technique for the past several weeks; relax and let it happen”).
    2. Challenge team members to do their best through individual and team meetings focusing on achieving team and individual goals.
  4. Reality-confirmation support – the perception that another person, who is similar to the support recipient and who sees things the same way, is helping to confirm the support recipients perspective.
    1. Arrange small-group meetings in which teammates discuss dealing with pressure, preparing for competition, or adjusting to college life.
    2. Create shared opportunities between younger and older teammates, such as a buddy system or mentor system.
  5. Task-appreciation support – the perception that another person is acknowledging the support recipient’s efforts and expressing appreciation for the work that person does.
    1. Recognizing preseason and daily goal attainment of specific skill or life improvements.
  6. Task-challenge support – perception that another is challenging the support recipient’s way of thinking about a task or an activity in order to stretch, motivate, and lead the support recipient to greater creativity, excitement, and involvement.
    1. Encourage team members to provide task-challenge support for one another as a team responsibility and norm.
    2. Videotape practices/races to allow teammates to review their participation and receive positive and constructive feedback from teammates and coaches.
  7. Personal-assistance support – the perception that another is providing services or help, such as running an errand or driving the support recipient somewhere.
    1. Encourage teammates to help each other with non-sport-related needs.
    2. Encourage team members to get to know as many other teammates on a personal level as possible (make sure to demonstrate interest and caring authentically).


I hope you are all able to take these with you as you continue through your seasons. Wishing you lots of peaceful and happy runs!



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