Psychology of Remember the Titans

Topics: Herman Boone, Remember the Titans, Bill Yoast Pages: 5 (2145 words) Published: October 11, 2013
The inspirational film, Remember the Titans tells the story of the 1971 high school football team of T.C. Williams High School. For the first time, these student athletes would attended a racially integrated school. Working together with a group of strangers is difficult as is. Before the Titans could think about strategy and winning, the players first had to overcome prevailing prejudice attitudes. Without the strong leadership of the head coach, Herman Boone, and assistant coach Bill Yoast, the team would not have been able to accomplish as much as they did. According to sports psychologists, the team’s growth and success throughout the film can be attributed to head Coach Herman Boone’s ability to change his style of leadership based on the maturation of his team. Specifically, Coach Boone adjusts his level of “supportive behavior” and his level of “directive behavior” in accordance to the task at hand, as well as to the “competence” and “motivation” levels of his team. Tuckman’s model of group development states that there are four stages of development that a team must go through in order to achieve their goal. Both Tuckman’s and Blanchard’s theories help to reveal the different components behind the success of the Titans. During the first stage, referred to by Tuckman as “forming”, team members often exhibit low competence but high commitment to the sport (Hersey & Blanchard 1996). In the film, the forming stage begins with the gathering of the two teams in the auditorium. Petey, Big Blue and some of the other black players excitedly talk about the impending season, joking that Petey will accumulate, “at least a thousand yards”. As the white players enter the auditorium, there is a clear racial divide, indicating low competency. According to the SLM, a coach should develop a “directive” style of leadership when his or her team is in the D1 stage. True to Blanchard’s model, Coach Boone responds by stating, “this is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship. I am the law” (time reference). In doing so, Coach Boone is firmly establishing his relationship with them as one in which he, “tells them what to do but without a great deal of concern for the relationship”(Hersey & Blanchard 1996). In contrast to Coach Boone’s abrasive S1 style of coaching during the forming stage, is Coach Yoast’s approach. In the beginning of the movie, many of the white football players and members of the community gather to discuss boycotting new football program. Gerry tells Coach Yoast, “I’m not playing for him. I started a petition, and I’m sitting this season out”. In a gentle tone, Yoast says, “Only place you’re going to sit is back in that chair, Gerry. I appreciate it though”. Instead of being angry about losing his position, Yoast expresses concern and caring for his players saying, “You know none of these boys can afford to go to some other district just to play ball. They sit this one out, they put their futures on the line” (Bruckheimer, 2000). Throughout the film, Yoast acts in a manner that is more congruent with a combination of S2 and S3 style of leadership, than with Coach Boone’s directive style. Storming, the second stage of Tuckman’s theory, is “the period of ‘testing-out’ the teacher" during which, “disagreements appear or are manufactured and roles are eventually allocated”(Atherton, 2003). For the Titans, this stage begins with the team’s arrival at Gettysburg College. Marked by fights between the informal leaders, Julius, and Gerry, Petey blaming his blockers for his own errors, as well as the formation of cliques, Coach Boone responds to the team’s low competence with highly directive behavior. Each time a player, “drops a pass…misses a blocking assignment or…fumbles a football,” Coach Boone makes that player run a mile [00:19:24 – 00:20:37]. Although his repeated punishments may seem punitive, the results serve to establish the norms of productivity for the team. In addition, “the presence of these norms is also associated...
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