Forms, Contents, and Dynamics of Sharedness in an Elite Sport Team

Empirical Studies
By Camille De Keukelaere, Gilles Kermarrec, Cyril Bossard, Denis Pasco, Pierre De Loor


The objective of this study is to identify elements which contribute to a shared understanding between elite handball players during a game, and more particularly, in rapid attack situations. According to team cognition research, shared understanding explains the coordination efficiency of team members in workplaces or sports settings. More precisely, we used a team situation awareness approach to study sharedness forms, contents, and dynamics in handball. Behavioral data from six elite players during nine selected offensive phases were recorded and supplemented by verbal data collected during self-confrontation interviews after the game. Data were analyzed in five stages: (1) generate offensive phases chronologies, (2) encode and examine players’ courses of action during each phase, (3) identify shared sequences, (4) analyze shared sequences’ meaning through players’ understanding to identify typical shared structures, (5) analyze shared contents and forms dynamics, (6) verify analysis validity. Results indicated seven typical shared sequences and four typical shared understandings between these six elite players. They also revealed handball players. Seven typical shared sequences were also found in our study. The variability of sharedness forms depended on the number of players who shared information during offensive phases. The data permit us to understand shared dynamics during the match. In particular, this analysis shows that forms of sharedness are local and punctual, alternating between two main modes of shared understanding: either following a pre-established plan, with possible adaptation to conclude a given action, or a real-time adaptation to the context of action. These results are discussed in three points: (1) variability of elements which contribute to coordination in a sports team, (2) context effects on shared structures, and (3) shared understanding dynamics related to situations, and consequences for shared understanding’s construct.


  • team cognition
  • shared understanding
  • dynamic situation
  • handball
  • collective activity
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