Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Group Dynamics, Final Edition

Posted by admin June - 12 - 2012 - Tuesday

I’m going to close by simply summarizing what’s been discussed for the past month. This concept of dynamics might be equated to the word force. Group dynamics, then, would be the sum of the forces brought to bear on a group/team/unit which will affect the group’s behavior and performance.

As I presented earlier, as the leader of the group you need to find out which individual needs can be satisfied by (this is KEY): belonging to the group. Individuals have a desire to be identified with others. They like to belong to groups through which they can gain feelings of security, recognition and status. Do your players like to wear their game jersey when they are at the mall or scouting another team? The pride in displaying that jersey exemplifies what we are talking about here. Raise some money and get your kids in a team t shirt!

It’s important to know that there are many internal and external forces working in a group. Some of these forces, if not dealt with properly, can work against the leader/coach. It is your responsibility as the leader to influence these forces (like that grapevine) to work for you— to achieve the goals of the group.

The secret of building successful teams is getting all members to identify with the group and its objectives. This is what we call identification. This identification with the group must show promise of being a “pay off” to members by satisfying some of the needs of the individual. The more needs satisfied by being a member of the group, the stronger the identification will be for all of the members. One of my fondest memories in coaching occurred the year I chose to let a boy play who had a severe hearing loss. His doctor cleared him and his mom hesitantly said ok. I admit that I was concerned about his safety (not being able to hear people coming at him could have devistating consequences) but everyone decided to give him a chance. We were careful during practice and he didn’t play much during the year. But a couple of times in blow outs, we got him in for a play or two. We won our district championship that year. At the end-of-season banquet, that boy came up to me and quiety said to me as he shook my hand, “Thanks Coach for making me a champion.” WOW!!! The tears were flowing. What a perfect example of someone who made little or no on-the-field contribution to our success but he identified with our team and saw himself to be a champion just like the biggest star.

To make group dynamics “work” for you to achieve your team’s goals, you must create a satisfying social structure within the group. You can promote this kind of motivation by making clear to the team what their season goals are and giving direction to any group activities. “Team building” exercises are worth the time it takes to do them. You must be sure to give consistent treatment to all members. Nothing breaks down team cohesion quicker than a prima donna being allowed to break a rule and suffer no consequences. At the same time, it’s important to create status for individuals and the group as a whole. This is why I am such a strong advocate of a helmet sticker award system. Stickers are earned for team and individual performance. I’ve said many times: if you want a particular action repeated, reward it! We give a sticker for great hustle. We give a sticker every week to the Scout Team Player of the Week. You want to see your scout teams hustling and giving you a good look? Reward them for their effort. You’ll see them fighting to get that award!

As the leader, you are the one who should be most aware of these various forces we’ve discussed. You are the one person who can most effectively lead your team to succeed if you utilize the various forces which influence a group. Recognizing the 1- the needs of the individual players and 2- knowing what to do to cause the group to serve individual needs which accomplish the goals of the team are the leader’s most important tasks. Good luck and God bless you!

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