I was an athlete for all of my elementary and high school years of school. During that time, I played with various coaches and teammates. Although the members were always changing, one thing that our coaches always would have us do was watch the movie Remember The Titans by Boaz Yakin. As I think back to that film, I remember times when I believed I would never have team cohesion with a new group of individuals. When I would go home and complain about a teammate or coach, my dad would remind me about Remember the Titans as an example of the development of groups and team cohesion.
Cohesion is defined as “a dynamic process which is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of member affective needs” (Coutts, Gruman, & Schneider, 2017). At the beginning of the film two high schools are integrated during a time of high racial tension. Since the schools are integrated, the football team has an African American head coach (Denzel Washington) and a Caucasian coach (Will Patton). During the first interactions between the newly integrated team members, there was a lack of team cohesion. The players make it known to the team that they do not want to play with the members of the opposite race. With a lack of team cohesion, the coaches were aware that they would struggle to succeed because “research evidence that teams high in cohesion perform better than do teams low in cohesion” (Coutts & et al., 2017). To increase team cohesion, Washington and Patton used goal setting, team building activities, and through modeling leadership. Through the use of these various interventions, the team was able to come together through the process of group development.
Tuckman (1965), stages of development theory, describes a process of four steps forming, storming, norming, and performing. In the film, the integrated members of the team meet in the gymnasium and are somewhat reserved at first in the presence of their new coaches. Washington explains that the team will all be heading to a training camp as a way to help increase team cohesion. On the way to camp, Washington separates two groups and partners up to each team member with a member of the opposite race. He promotes team building at this time by having them sit together, room together, and they are required to learn more about their partner. The storming stage begins when there are conflicts within the team. The storming stage is most clearly noted when the two head captains, one African American, and one Caucasian player, have a confrontation regarding leadership skills and not looking out for the team as a whole. Through this conflict, the players learned to understand one another and were able to become better leaders for the team.
Following various conflicts between members of the team, the norming stage emerges. The norming stage begins as the team works together to fight against racism. The teammates start to trust one another and have come to an understanding of their membership in the group. They build bonds and communicate effectively and work together through warmups and, specifically, a team dance. Moving on to the last stage of Tuckman’s (1965) theory, the performing stage is noted when the team begins to work together efficiently and succeed in their goal of winning. By the end of the film, the football players are best friends and stand up against racism in their community. Through the stages of development and the help of the supportive coaches, this team was able to work together to increase cohesion. With the bonds they built, they were able to defy the odds and achieve the unachievable.
Coutts, L. M., Gruman, J. A., & Schneider, F. W. (2017). Applied social psychology understanding and addressing social and practical problems (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Tuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63 (6). 384–399. doi:10.1037/h0022100