What Coaches Need to Know about Group Dynamics and the Hidden Curriculum

There are lots of scenes in the film Wonder, about the 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey group, a group of underdogs that beat the then-Soviet Union powerhouse and went on to take house the gold, that offer me goose bumps. This consists of one where the group has actually reasonably just recently come together. Throughout a training session, head coach Herb Brooks consistently asks the gamers, “Who do you play for?” Each gamer, in turn, reacts with his own university, and this leads to the brand-new group being required to run sprint after sprint on the ice up until they are beyond tired.

It isn’t up until ultimate group captain Mike Eruzione lastly reacts, “I play for the United States of America!” that Brooks ends the sprints. With this declaration, Eruzione supplied the proof Brooks had actually been trying to find that the gamers were beginning to determine themselves as part of a specified group, that they prioritized their brand-new group subscription more than their private histories. (At that point, they most likely focused on no more sprints over definitely anything else, however they got the message.)

Professional athletes of every stripe are hired to be part of a group, whether they play a group sport or contend separately. Preferably they determine with the group and show a sense of belonging and commitment such that the group itself establishes an identity in addition to the professional athletes’ identity as part of it. The growing of that group identity might go a long method towards the advancement of trust and connection, which are required for efficient practice and efficiency in private and group sports alike. This indicates it behooves coaches and professional athletes to comprehend the ramifications of those characteristics and make certain they are favorable.

While coaches and colleagues interact overtly with one another and work towards specified, seemingly shared objectives, the experience of working and discovering with a group can likewise bring with it a phenomenon teachers call the “hidden curriculum.” This describes the lessons, practices of mind, and accepted habits any members of a group – a class, a friend, a group – get indirectly, by observation or other indirect techniques. To put it simply, the specified objectives of any group may be just part of what a colleague finds out and pertains to accept as proper. For instance, a brand-new employee may hear locker space talk amongst more skilled colleagues and intuit specific things from this about what it requires to get along and belong.

group dynamics, hidden curriculum, coaching, teaching, teammwork

If the hidden curriculum reinforces the overt goals of the group, it could be a good thing. On the other hand, if the hidden curriculum undermines or detracts from these goals, disruption can result. As coaches, we must be aware of the existence of these more covert dynamics as well as the effect they may have on our coaching and our athletes’ behavior and mindsets.

To get a handle on the hidden curriculum that may be at work in your own training situation, and the effect it is having on the cohesion of your group, consider the following when observing interpersonal dynamics and interactions:

  • Who are the de facto leaders in the group – who has influence over others’ behavior? Are these the people you have designated as the leaders? If not, would it behoove you to intervene to ensure consistent messages?
  • What messages ARE being communicated, both overtly and covertly? Are the covert messages consistent with or undermining the overt messages?
  • How does your own behavior play into the dynamics of the group? Do you convey your own expectations clearly and abide by them yourself?

When you start to pay attention to the dynamics of a group and the hidden curriculum that may be at play, you may find opportunities to ensure consistency of messages and expectations. Here are a few steps you can take to promote group cohesion:

  • Hold regular meetings with team captains and other de facto leaders, both to make sure they understand expectations and also to learn about any issues that might need intervention. Solicit their input about effective ways to intervene – they will have an understanding of the players that will complement your own perspective.
  • Group athletes for training and workouts, and switch up the combinations regularly so the same people are not always working together.
  • Pair new members with a more experienced teammate to help with orientation to the team.

Group dynamics and the covert curriculum can be powerful influences on the effectiveness of a group. With a bit of awareness and a couple of simple actions, coaches can increase the likelihood that these impacts are favorable ones.

Images thanks to Shutterstock.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.