Team cohesion demystified by Eungwang Oh [Graduate]

Eungwang Oh is a master’s student in sport and exercise psychology, working on team-cohesion research with Dr. Diane Gill. Eungwang sat down with UNCG Research to tell us about his work, how he got started in research, and how it changed his life.

How would you explain your research to someone with no background in your field?

My research is about team cohesion, which is teamwork or team chemistry in a particular team, and individual anxiety. I expect that when you have low levels of cohesion in your team, you may get more nervous before sport competitions. I will measure both of these and see if team cohesion influences individual anxiety. That being said, if your team has good cohesion, you may experience less anxiety.

How did you get started with this research?

I always have been interested in team cohesion because I am a soccer player. In soccer, there are eleven people in one team, and their interaction, their teamwork, are very crucial in team performance. I think if your team chemistry is really good then you may feel less stressed before a competition, because you have confidence that your team will do a great job. The whole team is standing and playing with you. Even if you get jacked up while playing, they will help you up, and you have this confidence if your cohesion is really high. So it may help you to feel less stressed. But if you don’t really communicate with your team, then you will be more concerned about your play, and if you make one mistake, it may lead to frustration and affect performance differently after that.

What was the coolest thing about engaging in your research and what was the most challenging?

Although it’s really demanding and takes a lot of time to gather information to do my research, it helps to become an expert in your field. The coolest thing is my advisor (Dr. Gill); she helped me out a lot. Whenever I have some question about the research, she gives me a great answer and helps me keep going. She has been an inspiration for my research. She taught me how to write an introduction and method section, and I can use different ways of writing to feed into formal writing because of her. Having a great advisor is the best thing as a junior researcher.

The most challenging thing is that you need to go over a lot of literature about your research and, without statistical knowledge, it’s really hard to get results and comprehend the literature fully. I am just a master’s student, so there are many things that I am still learning in statistical procedure. In previous literature, they used different methods that I couldn’t quite get, so I had to go through many graduate students who could explain things to me, and that’s somewhat challenging.

Another thing is getting information from participants, because you need to actually meet them and explain things. But even before you can do your own questionnaires, you need to go through the IRB (Institutional Review Board) and get permission from that institution, explaining that your research is not harmful to people. It takes time and you are not always sure if participants are really doing their best to provide answers, or if they are just making their own or false answers, which is something I need to screen out. It’s a matter of effort and is the most challenging for me.

How do you think your current research has impacted you so far and how will it impact you in the future?

I will be still interested in this field, and I will pursue my career based on this research. I will continue to look at variables that may play a role in team cohesion and team performance. I have a great interest in team building because it has been considered as a method to improve team cohesion. I want to know what would be the best team environments and team-building exercises you can do for sports teams and in group settings.

When I teach my class as a TA or play soccer, I always look at cohesion, if you have great cohesion or not. I played a summer season soccer competition with my friends, and even though each player’s soccer skills were good, we lost the championship really badly. I would guess it is because we did not have good cohesion or team chemistry. Even though we made it to the final championship with our own individual skills, we could not match the other team, who had great skills and team-cohesion. When I look at phenomena of people playing soccer, or even when I watch a soccer game, I always look at these variables: who the leader is in that team, how the leader impacts team-cohesion in that team, does that leader really assert themselves or can nobody see how they work for the team, and does the team really care about team-cohesion. Some teams consist of really great soccer players, but like Babe Ruth said,  “if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

What do you plan to do next?

It has been a really great experience here to take courses, improve my research skills, and actually to do my own research. Even though it’s challenging to balance my life doing research, taking classes, teaching and doing all that, I like being in a college/research setting. Therefore, I want to continue to pursue my career in this field as a sports consultant, using psychological skills for athletes, or I want to stay in college as a professor teaching students, who may become sports consultants in this field later.

However, before doing all that, of course, I need to pursue my Ph.D first. I would say that my next plan is to get my thesis done as soon as possible so I can graduate and move on to a different university. I mean, UNCG is a great place to do research and has awesome professors, but next I need to find a professor who is actually doing team-cohesion research. For my focus on professional athletes, I will continue to do research in team-cohesion, team-building, team-performance, hopefully get my PhD here in America, and become a sports consultant or researcher.

Readers, tell as about your research and/or creative activity! All UNCG faculty, staff, and students are invited to contribute to our Research Perspectives blog. 

Article author Eun-Ju Seo is a Media and Communication Intern with the UNCG Office of Research and Economic Development. She manages the UNCG Research Perspectives blog, which highlights the research and creative activities of our distinguished faculty, staff, and students. Eun-Ju is a music education major in her junior year. Her passion for communication led her to her current position.

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