Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


College of Arts and Sciences


Communication, MA

First Advisor

Desrene Vernon-Brebnor

Second Advisor

Lynn Caldwell

Third Advisor

Heather Day



The Andrews University Lady Cardinals soccer team has a reputation of having back to back unsuccessful seasons. Hypotheses and research questions were formulated, and the answers provide further insight into the difficulties the team experienced during the 2018 soccer season. They are as follows:

Research Hypotheses:

1. Team members with higher skill levels will be more highly valued by the coach and other team members.

2. If the team does not have an adequate preseason, it will not be prepared to play as a team, thus it will have difficulty having a successful season.

3. Players who have positive interactions off the field, play better on the field due to an established level of trust. Research Questions:

4. How does the number of match-minutes played affect team members’ morale/team spirit?

5. How does external support impact members morale/team spirit?

6. What factors influence the commitment and retention of team members?


The purpose of this ethnographic study is to understand the different barriers to successful team building specifically in the area of sports, by looking at the Andrews University Lady Cardinals women’s soccer team. This research focuses on internal and external factors that impact the Lady Cardinals team success in light of the conceptual framework of Tuckman’s group stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.


The data was collected through observations made during the 2018 soccer season for the duration of 14 weeks. Data was documented and organized using various charts including a Daily Observation Chart and a Match Minutes Played Chart. The data collected through observations were correlated with data collected through post-season interviews. The interviews consisted of 15 out of the 16 Cardinal players and three out of the four coaches. All interviews were conducted face-to-face except for two of the coaches who responded to questions via email. After the interviews were conducted, they were then transcribed. The analysis was made possible through the use of the software program NVIVO which provided an effective way of organizing the various themes that emerged.


The study confirmed the hypotheses and answered the research questions. Apart from the group dynamics originally being studied, ineffective leadership emerged as a significant theme throughout the research especially regarding leadership communication between coaching staff and players. Considering Tuckman’s theory, the team’s longest stage is the formation stage, and the team barely reaches the performing stage as soon as the season is ending. There is no adjourning stage. Various barriers to successful team building were found, both internal and external, which in turn, affected the team’s overall season and performance. The data collected also revealed concerns in regard to Title IX and male coach-to-female player relational dynamics.

Subject Area

Andrews University--Soccer; Andrews University--Sports; Lady Cardinals (Soccer team); Teamwork (Sports); Coach-athlete relationships; Interpersonal relations; Leadership; Communication

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.