There are many opinions of what a group really is defined as. According to Carron, Hausenblas, and Eys (2005) a group in a sporting context is defined as more than two people that have a common identity or objective, with an organised structure, eventually leading to the same fate at the end of their journey together as a group.
Carron and Eys (2012) have a theory that every group is different and unique from one another. These authors go on to explain that there are two reasons of existence for any group; to have a goal to work towards and to fill the needs of every person to belong and be a part of something involving others. This theory of needing to belong is supported by Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ (1954, cited in Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2010) in which the third tier of needs suggests each and every person has social needs and has to feel a sense of belonging.
There are two main perspectives on how a team is formed to become successful. According to Tuckman (1965, cited in Egolf & Chester, 2007) There is something seen as a more linear perspective in which a team is faced with an issue of not being able to perform or have good team cohesion but these issues are then dealt with and handled by the team and the group moves on to continue performing. Tuckman has a theory that there are four main stages to the development of a team or sporting group. Firstly the players come together to form a team, sharing the common identity with the same kit, club name or selection for a team. At this point social comparisons are made between new acquaintances. This is known as the forming stage in which all that is taken into account is the fact all of the players have been chosen to come together. The second part of the process includes friction between personalities, and often the leader of the group. Arguments often occur at this stage regarding perceptions on performance etc. which may cause unrest between people in a way that stops them from being able to complete their role in the team. After this storming process the players begin to realise similarities between each other and that personalities may be more alike than first thought. After hours practising the sport in the group environment, it helps the players or group to norm with each other and find out a way in which they are able to use each other’s strengths to help the team. Roles are created within the team as the players begin to respect one another. The penultimate stage is arguably the most important and the reason the team was formed and brought together in the beginning, to complete the common goal of performing together in the match or championships to try to be successful as not only a group of players but now as a team. In recent years Tuckman and Jensen (1977, cited in Nijstad 2009) have added to Tuckman’s original theory by including a final stage to the process. The final stage of this is that the teams adjourn, have a break in season or end of competition and rest, perhaps ready to rebuild for the next year and start the whole process again. According to Maples (2008) “Graduate students in group work find Tuckman’s theory of the stages of group development too limiting”. The author goes on to suggest a second level needs to be added to clarify the five stages.
Another perspective of how groups are formed was created by Worchel (1994, cited in Capozza & Brown 2000). This is known as the pendulum perspective. In this theory, Worchel believed the main theme or pattern that is constantly repeated is that firstly conflict occurs, followed by the team resolving this issue and finally the cohesion after this resolution. There are five main stage to this theory; firstly discontent occurs from not all group members feeling part of the group, perhaps due to others alienating them or due to an individual having different backgrounds from the majority. The next stage of this theory is called group identification and involves players renewing their commitment, e.g. a footballer may sign a new contract with a club to show his intentions of working for the team, either this or may decide to leave the club which will help the team to work out which players are really part of the team. The third stage is known as group productivity in which Worchel believes goals can now be set and the team can come together to rebuild after the conflict. The penultimate stage involves individual players wanting the recognition for their part of the team they feel they deserve. Finally, this individualisation results in more decay as players are not happy and therefore either want to leave or do not help the team as much as they could, returning the team to the beginning of the cycle to repeat this again and again.
The linear perspective of this can be applied to the formation of a professional sports team that has had its storming and performing very much in the public eye in recent years. In 2010 Manchester City football club added seven new players to the squad (Telegraph 2010), all with believed high abilities to improve the squad. The players then had to form together in the pre-season of that campaign and within weeks there were reports of players that were originally at the club unable to play in the new system provided by the manager Roberto Mancini and not being able to work with the newer players due to the perceived abilities of them and their ‘world class’ tags by the media compared to the lower profiles and reputations of players such as Stephen Ireland, Benjani and others. This then led to player Stephen Ireland leaving the club along with former talisman Robinho. This shows that it is not possible for all players to form together in a sporting team and that storming does often occur after this stage. After the storming stage the players remaining were able to norm and understand how each other’s ways of playing and personalities to produce better performances in the game situations and eventually performing well together evident by the winning of the FA Cup. The team then adjourned and had a break ready to build for the next season and start the whole process again.
Both of these theories by Tuckman & Jensen and Worchel respectively can be made to fit many situation such as the Manchester City scenario provided but it all depends on the viewer’s outlook on conflict resolution and how a team develops as a group.
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Tags:Group FormationGroup PsychologyPsychology of SportSport PsychologySports PsychologyTeam Cohesion
About Nick Gearing
Performance Analysis intern at Gillingham FC. P.E and Sport & Exercise Science Student.