Examining the Relationships between Task Cohesion, Self-Efficacy, and Competitive Trait Anxiety in College Team Sports

Submitted by Ali Aycan Ph.D.

Ali Aycan, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Sport Management at the Abant Izzet Baysal University, Turkey.                   


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between task cohesion, self-efficacy, and competitive trait anxiety in college team sports, as well as the relationship between these variables and some demographic features of the college athletes (e.g., age, gender, and sport age).  The sample consisted of 230 athletes (156 males, 74 females) from 12 different college sports teams.  The data were obtained using the Group Environment Questionnaire(GEQ), the Generalized Self-Efficacy Scale (GSE), and the Sport Competition Anxiety Test (SCAT).  Results showed that there are significant differences between male and female groups in competitive trait anxiety and self-efficacy perceptions (p<.01).  The ages of collegiate athletes and sport ages were related in a significantly negative way with perceptions of competitive trait anxiety and GI-Task.  Also, these three variables have either positive or negative correlations in the study.


Team sports require the players working together as a group to achieve certain actions (e.g., sharing objectives, decision making, communication, cooperation, conflict management, and creating confidence).  Team members act collectively by combining individual courses of action for team achievement.  Thus, researchers have been interested in the related factors that affect the athletes and team performances.  Studies on such variables as team cohesion (6, 25, 22, 7), self-efficacy (29, 14), and competition trait anxiety (26, 11) have focused on relationship with other variables and understanding the effects on player and team performance.

Carron, Brawley, and Widmeyer (1998) defined cohesion as “a dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency of a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of member affective needs” (p. 213).  Carron, Widmeyer, and Brawley (1985) developed the Group Environment Questionnaire (GEQ), which is based on a conceptual model.  The model includes four connected dimensions: group integration­—task (GI-Task), the perceptions of a group members about tasks and objectives of the group; group integration—social (GI-Social), the perceptions of a group members about the group as a social unit; individual attractions to the group—task (ATG-Task), the feelings of a group members about personal involvement with the task aspect of the group; and individual attractions to the group—social (ATG-Social), the feelings of a group members about personal involvement with the social aspect of the group.  The task cohesion aspect of team cohesion especially tends to improve performance of interactive team sports (28).  The nature of the group task is a strong mediator of group cohesion (8).

Self-efficacy is a valuable variable to study to improve sports team dynamics and is necessary to achieve a high level of competition.  Most studies indicated that there are positive relationships between self-efficacy and performance in a variety of sports (14, 24, 3).  Bandura (1997) defined self-efficacy as “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (p.3).  The source of self-efficacy was categorized by Bandura (1997) as past performance, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and psychological states.  High self-efficacy expectations are connected with low precompetitive anxiety, positive effect, strong goal importance and high personal goals, and high trait sport confidence in athletes (13).

Anxiety is another important psychological state of individuals that comprises two components: trait anxiety is a perception of certain environmental situations as threatening, and state anxiety is a perception of a specific situation as threatening (31).  In sports settings, competitive trait anxiety is a critical subject for athletic performance (26, 11, 21), which is defined as a personality disposition reflecting an individual tendency to perceive threat in sport competition (20, 21).  Pre-competition anxiety is the feeling of anxiety-related symptoms due to competition and is a common situation that exists among athletes of all levels and within every sport (21).  Within the context of sports, research findings collectively offer that both state and trait anxiety can be effective in individual performance in unique ways, depending upon the level of skill (17, 18).

High performance in sport and physical activities is the goal of many athletes and coaches.  Team achievement in sports requires working together with every member of the team to achieve a common goal.  Individual skills of each athlete should be in harmony for team achievement.  Athletes and coaches want to be members of a high performance team.  Team cohesion, self-efficacy, and competitive trait anxiety are highly related to team performance.  Determining all the factors that affect team performances is complex because of multivariate structure.  As with defining the factors of this structure, understanding the interrelationships between these three variables can elucidate the subject in in all aspects.  The main purpose of this study is to investigate the relationships between task cohesion, self-efficacy, and competitive trait anxiety in college team sports, as well as the relationship between these variables and some demographic features of college athletes (e.g., gender, sport age, and age).



The sample consisted of 230 athletes (156 males, 74 females) from 12 different college sports teams.  The distribution of the subjects according to sports is as follows: soccer (n=80), basketball (n=87), and volleyball (n=63).  These athletes were on average 20.94 ± 1.95 years of age, had been members of respective teams for 2.31 ± 1.51 years, and possessed 7.66 ± 3.69 years of experience in sport.


The data were obtained in the period of intercollegiate sports tournaments, such as soccer, basketball, and volleyball, which are organized in every academic year by Turkish Intercollegiate Sports Federation.  After getting all necessary permission, the coaches were informed about the purpose of the study and the questionnaires were completed by the college athletes before the games in the tournaments.


The Group Environment Questionnaire:  The GEQ (Carron et al., 1985) was used to assess team cohesion.  This inventory consists of 18 items and assesses four dimensions of cohesion: ATG-Task, four items; ATG-Social, five items; GI-Task, five items; and GI-Social, four items.  Responses were provided on a 9-point Likert scale anchored at the extremes by strongly disagree (1) and strongly agree (9).  Thus, higher scores reflect stronger perceptions of cohesiveness.  GEQ was adapted to Turkish by Moralı (1994).  The ATG-Task and GI-Task dimensions of GEQ were selected as focuses of the study because inter-collegiate sports in Turkey are held in the form of group competitions lasting approximately one week, and college sports teams usually participate in group competitions following a short preparation period.  This causes college athletes to spend too little time together, and the social interaction among each other is restricted.  Therefore, the task dimensions of the GEQ leads to more realistic results.  Internal consistency values computed with the data secured for the present study showed acceptable values for ATG-Task (.62) and GI-Task (.70).

The Generalized Self-Efficacy Scale:  The GSE (Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995) was used to measure the beliefs of individuals about their capacity.  The GSE was originally developed in Germany and translated to Turkish by Yeşilay (1996).  The GSE scale includes 10 items grouped under a single factor.  Possible responses are rated 1 (not at all true), 2 (hardly true), 3 (moderately true), and 4 (exactly true), yielding a total score between 10 and 40.  The coef­ficient alpha was .80 for the data obtained.

The Sport Competition Anxiety Test:  SCAT (Martens, 1977) was used to measure the competitive trait anxiety levels of athletes and adapted to Turkish by Özbekçi (1989).  SCAT is a unidimensional scale and consists of 15 items, including 5 spurious items, 8 positive items, and 2 negative items.  SCAT has items scored on a 3-point scale ranging from 1 (rarely) to 3 (often).  The scores range from 10 to 30, representing low to high anxiety, respectively (less than 17 is a low level of anxiety, 17 to 24 is average, and more than 24 is high).  SCAT demonstrated sufficient reliability in this study with an alpha coefficient of .72.


The SPSS 18 package program was used to analyze the data of the study.  Means and standard deviation values pertaining to demographic features of the college athletes and task cohesion, self-efficacy, and competitive trait anxiety perceptions of the college athletes were obtained by descriptive statistics.  In addition, task cohesion, self-efficacy, and competitive trait anxiety perceptions and the relationship-differences between this perception and gender, age, and sporting age of the participating college athletes was tested by T-test and Pearson correlation analysis.


The results obtained from descriptive statistics represented that college athletes participating in this study have a high perception of self-efficacy and task cohesion; conversely,the college athletes have low competitive trait anxiety perception (Table 1).  T-test analysis showed that there were no statistically significant differences between male and female college athletes in GI-Task and ATG-Task, the dimensions of task cohesion.  However, results showed significant differences between male and female groups in competitive trait anxiety and self-efficacy perceptions (p<.01).  Although the male group had a higher perception of competitive trait anxiety than females, the female group had a significantly higher perception of self-efficacy than males.  The dimensions of task cohesion, including ATG-Task and GI-Task, showed no such significant differences between male and female groups (p >.005) (Table 2).

According to the results of the Pearson correlation analysis, statistically significant relationships were found among competitive trait anxiety, self-efficacy, and the dimensions of team cohesion, ATG-Task, and GI-Task.  In detail, competitive trait anxiety had a statistically significant weak relationship of negative direction with self-efficacy (r=-.282; p<.01) and GI-Task (r=-.159; p<.05).  A statistically significant weak relationship of positive direction was found between self-efficacy and GI-Task (r=-.164; p<.05).  Finally, a statistically significant medium level relationship was observed between ATG-Task and GI-Task (r=.493; p<.01) (Table 4).


The aim of this study was to examine the interrelationships among task cohesion, self-efficacy, and competitive trait anxiety in college team sports, as well as the relationship between these variables and some demographic features of college athletes (e.g., gender, sport age, and age).  Results of the present study showed that athletes of the female gender have significantly higher competitive trait anxiety perceptions than athletes of the male gender (p<.01).  The other result demonstrated that male athletes have a significantly higher self-efficacy perception than female athletes (p<.01).  In other words, male athletes have higher self-efficacy and lower competitive trait anxiety level than female athletes.

In a study carried out on university students, Apay (2010) showed that overall self-efficacy of males was significantly higher than that of females.  These findings may be due to the gender roles acquired by the socialization process in culture and society, which affect male and female personal characteristics differently.  Societies have different social role expectations of males and females, and males are brought up as more reckless, contentious, and risk-taking individuals than females (9).  Both self-efficacy and anxiety are psychological states of individuals and parts of the personality.  Cartoni, Minganti, and Zelli (2005) indicated that cultural situations have been considered to account for males relatively low levels of anxiety and high levels of self-efficacy in several studies of physical activity.

Also in this study, GI-Task and ATG-Task perceptions of male and female athletes were not significantly different (p>.05).  Yet, the sub-dimensions of task cohesion perceptions of both genders were high (Table 2).  Caron, Bray, and Eys (2002) pointed out that there were no significant differences in perception of task or social cohesion between adult male and female athletes.  Especially in team sports, the main reason why athletes act together is to realize the goals and objectives of the team.  Task cohesion defines the perceptions of athletes of the level at which the team objectives have been realized (8).  Both male and female colligate team members come together for a certain task related sport competitions.  Therefore, gender differences could not cause different perception of task cohesion naturally.

Another finding of the study was the weak but statistically significant negative relationship between ages and GI-Task perceptions (r=-143; p<.05), sporting ages and GI-Task (r=-266; p<.01) perceptions of college athletes.  In addition, a weak positive relationship was found between ages and self-efficacy perceptions (r=.162; p<.05).  In this study, the overall self-efficacy perceptions of individualsthat was determined.  Furthermore, athletes participating in this study were on average 20.94 ± 1.95 years of age with 7.66 ± 3.69 years of experience in sport.  College athletes could be said not to have much life experience as to consider the age averages.  Self-efficacy is defined as an individual belief in one’s abilities for dealing with the situations faced, and the most effective factor for the creation of self-efficacy is individual past experiences (2).  In this study, the cause-effect relationship between self-efficacy and past experiences can be seen as a reason for the positive relationship between the ages of subjects and overall self-efficacy levels.   Apay (2010) stated that older individuals had significantly higher overall self-efficacy than younger individuals.

This study found that GI-Task perceptions of college athletes have a weak negative relationship with ages and sporting ages.  GI-Task reflects the extent of the efforts put together by the team members to achieve common aims (8).  The required effort for athletes together, especially in team sports, makes mutual interaction necessary.  The ages of college athletes were 18 through 26, sporting ages 1 through 18, and period of participation on college teams 2.31 ± 1.51 on average.  Although the average of playing together in university sports teams of the athletes is low, the considerably big difference between sporting ages and ages of athletes may lead to have conflicts within the team.  The differences in experiences and ages could possible lead to have a variety of ideas and attitudes.  Because these athletes come together for a short period of time during the year, the possibility of conflict among the team members increases noticeably.  Jehn (as cited in Tekleab, Quickley & Tesluk, 2009, p.173) defined task conflict as “disagreement among group members about the content of the tasks being performed, including differences in viewpoints, ideas, and opinions,” and relationship conflict as “interpersonal incompatibility among members, which typically includes tension, animosity, and annoyance among members within a group”.  In spite of this, successful conflict management would contribute positively to team unity by affecting task and relationship conflict (34).

Although SCAT is a valuable study instrument, measuring of the somatic aspect of trait anxiety is more practical than cognitive aspect (32, 16).  Trait anxiety in sports is the determiner of state anxiety (19).  There is a high positive relationship between trait somatic anxiety and state somatic anxiety (33).  As a result of the Pearson correlation analysis conducted to determine the interrelations among self-efficacy, competition trait anxiety, and task cohesion perceptions of athletes in college team sports, a statistically significant weak relationship of negative direction was found between sport competition anxiety perceptions and self-efficacy (r=-.282; p<.01)  and GI-Task (r=-.159; p<.05) perceptions.  There was also a statistically significant positive weak relationship between self-efficacy perceptions and GI-Task (r=.164; p<.05) perceptions (Table 4).

Precompetitive anxiety is the feeling of anxiety symptoms that occur due to competition and is commonly seen in all sports and athletes.  Self-efficacy, on the other hand, is an individual belief in capabilities to deal with situations faced (2).  Treasure, Monson, and Lox (1996) found a significant negative relationship between self-efficacy and state anxiety (cognitive and somatic).  High self-efficacy expectations are allied with low precompetitive anxiety (13).  Prapavessis and Carron (1996) found that high perception of togetherness decreases the pressure on individuals to fulfill own responsibilities and meet expectations of others and that therefore anxiety level of individuals may be low.  Eys, Hardy, Carron, and Beauchamp (2003) found that both GI-Task and ATG-Task were related to precompetitive anxiety, and state anxiety-cohesion relationship was stronger for GI-T.  Additionally, athletes who perceived somatic anxiety as a facilitative element had higher perceptions of GI-T.  Marcos, Miguel, Oliva, and Calvo (2010) found that there was a significant but weak relationship between self-efficacy and task cohesion and that task cohesion could be affected by individual self-efficacy level of semi-professional soccer players.


College athletes who participated in the study (a) had above-average general self-efficacy and task cohesion (ATG-Task and GI-Task) perceptions; (b) had low sport competition trait anxiety perceptions; (c) showed a statistically significant but weak negative relationship between sport competition trait anxiety perceptions and self-efficacy and GI-Task perceptions; (d) showed a statistically significant but weak positive relationship between self-efficacy perceptions and GI-Task perceptions; (e) showed that GI-Task perceptions had a statistically significant but weak negative relationship with ages and sporting ages; (f) showed a statistically significant but weak positive relationship between ages and self-efficacy perceptions; and (g) showed a statistically significant difference between  sport competition trait anxiety perceptions and self-efficacy perceptions in gender.

The results of the study suggested that the negative relationship between sports competition trait anxiety and self-efficacy can be an advantage for college team sports provided that the former is low and the latter is high.  Further, gender and age are effective variables in sport competition trait anxiety, self-efficacy, and task cohesion perceptions of college athletes.

The first restriction to the study is that only task aspect is assessed in terms of team unity.  To understand team unity in more detail, the social aspect of the issue should carefully be examined.  Another restriction to the study is that the data on sport competition anxiety with unidimensional SCAT limits evaluating the multidimensional properties of the subject.  In similar future studies, measuring sport-specific self-efficacy and collective efficacy perceptions instead of overall self-efficacy perceptions could facilitate the interpretation of the subject.  Moreover, studies of club teams and professional teams may provide more realistic results.


Based on the findings of the present study, the coaches and the athletes will have better understanding as to the relationship between task cohesion, self-efficacy, and competitive trait anxiety.  Therefore, the coaches should include some type of exercise to improve the level of task cohesion and self-efficacy into the training program while controlling competitive trait anxiety.


Author is grateful to the coaches and athletes for the support to carry out this work.


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