“And remember… There is no “I” in team.” It’s a somewhat soppy sports cliché that little league coaches are supposed to tell their players. Still, a little collective pep talk can be the difference between winning and losing.
In 2011, researchers Veronica Son and Deborah Feltz set up an experiment to test in what way motivational self-talk focusing on a group rather than an individual (‘We can do it!) influenced the team’s performance. Eighty participants were randomly assigned to three different groups and then had to play a team-based round of darts. One of the groups used self-talk focusing on individual capacities (“My skill will improve with every throw!”), while the second group repeated statements for the whole group (“We are focused and ready!”). The third group was the control group and therefore used some non-motivational statements such as “I am a student” or “I am male”.
The results showed that by focusing on the capacities of the group, the task (throwing darts) got easier. “By focusing on the team, you include yourself without putting the focus or extra pressure on yourself,” said Feltz, chairperson of the Department of Kinesiology. She added that the results are not just applicable in athletics, but probably also in other social environments such as the business world. “Reinforcing the sense of team and focusing on a team goal can help someone change health behaviors or reach sales goals” Feltz said.
Read (non open access) study
Son V, Jackson B, Grove JR, & Feltz DL (2011). “I am” versus “we are”: effects of distinctive variants of self-talk on efficacy beliefs and motor performance. Journal of sports sciences, 29 (13), 1417-24 PMID: 21831003