Being a Team Player

The link between team cohesion and a healthy life

(RxWiki News) New research shows that kids who feel like a part of their sports team are more likely to maintain healthy activities and continue exercising into their adult years.

This finding comes from work conducted by Mark Eys, an associate professor of kinesiology and physical education at Wilfrid Laurier University and the Canada Research Chair in Group Dynamics and Physical Therapy.

Eys' work focuses on the psychology of group cohesion. More specifically, he studies how the camaraderie between teammates affects the willingness of teenagers to engage in and maintain physical activity long-term. Explaining the basis for his research endeavor, Eys says the connection is important to study because "people playing sports…are usually part of a group." He continues, "If we understand how those groups work, and take advantage of those situations, we can facilitate physical activity."

In order to conduct his study, Eys and his team have been observing teenagers (age 13 to 17) for the past two years, following their participation in high school sports, recreational leagues, and non-structured group activities such as running and jogging.

At the end of each year, the teens answer written questions that measure their feelings regarding the level of cohesion in their groups. Those who partake in highly organized activities, such as high school sports, are asked more specific questions about how their teams' focus balances self-improvement with winning.

Although the research team has yet to analyze all the data, Eys claims that they have found "a really strong relationship between that motivational climate and perceptions of cohesion." Additionally, he believes this relationship supports findings in similar studies that looked at adults. "If you look at the research on adults," he says, "the link between group perceptions and cohesion is pretty clear. If people are in groups that they enjoy, they're more likely to stick to their exercise regimens."

When all the data has been researched and analyzed, Eys says he hopes to "have something to be able to take to coaches, to be able to take to organizations" that will help leaders create a cohesive group environment and encourage kids to play better and longer.

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Review Date: 
November 29, 2010