Goals of group dynamics

Expand upon knowledge of oneself


$                   List personal strengths and weaknesses

$                   Describe how past events may influence your perceptions of current events

$                   Identify your personal role in your life circumstances

$                   Identify and explain your feelings about a variety of issues

$                   Build a vocabulary for your feelings

$                   Identify personal goals and develop a course of action to obtain these goals

$                   Identify in concrete terms your personal value system

$                   Identify patterns of self-talk

$                   Develop a personal method to deal with fears, anxieties, anger and sadness

$                   Identify repetitive patterns in your emotional life


Development of Social Skills

$                   Identify body language cues of others

$                   Demonstrate the ability to verbalize your personal feelings in a group  setting

$                   Identify methods for escalating and de-escalating conflict

$                   Demonstrate the ability to listen to and acknowledge viewpoints that are different from your own

$                   Identify and demonstrate the characteristics of a good listener  

$                   Demonstrate self control

$                   Demonstrate appropriate self-disclosure

$                   Demonstrate the ability to size up interpersonal situations and plan appropriate actions

$                   Demonstrate the ability to state your concerns without anger or passivity.

$                   Demonstrate the ability to communicate non-verbally (eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice,         gestures

$                   demonstrate the ability to communicate verbally (clear requests, responding effectively to criticism,         resisting negative influences, listening to others and helping others)

Aubrey Immelman – Group Dynamics Text

Chapter 4 Group Development and Socialization


Groups are dynamic: they change over time. Temporal change, a characteristic feature of groups (see Forsyth, chap. 1), can be directly observed in group development and socialization.

Group Development

Group development refers to patterns of growth and change that occur in groups throughout their life cycle. There are two broad categories of theories of group development: cyclical models and stage models. The Forsyth text emphasizes Bruce W. Tuckman’s (1965; see Forsyth, 1990, p. 78) stage model.

Cyclical models specify that, although certain issues may dominate group interaction during different periods of the group’s development, they have a tendency to recur throughout the group’s life cycle. In Bales’s equilibrium model, for example, the group oscillates between task- and socioemotive activities.

Successive-stage models view group development as an orderly sequence of invariant, sequential stages. Tuckman’s model, for example, specifies a five-stage developmental sequence consisting of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning stages.

Tuckman’s Successive-Stage Model of Group Development

Tuckman conceptualizes group development in terms of typical processes and characteristics at five relatively discrete stages (i.e., interpersonal outcomes). Tuckman specifies several major processes and characteristics at each developmental stage (see Forsyth, 1990, Table 4-1, p. 77).

1. Orientation (“forming”)

The orientation stage can be summarized as a period of mild tension and guarded interchanges. As rudimentary levels of trust develops, members begin to redefine (categorize) themselves as group members rather than discrete individuals.

2. Conflict (“storming”)

Conflict plays a crucial role in group development. Interdependence and stability cannot deepen until hostility has surfaced and been resolved. Lack of conflict is often indicative of a lack of group involvement. Forsyth (1990, p. 79) describes three varieties of conflict: false (autistic), contingent, and escalating conflicts.

3. Cohesion (“norming”)

The growth of group norms (“norming”) is not the only important dynamic occurring during cohesion; other attributes are unity, membership stability, member satisfaction, and internal dynamics (see Forsyth, 1990, Table 4-2, p. 83).

4. Performance (“performing”)

Task-focused actions tend to occur more frequently later in the group’s life. Not all groups reach this productive stage of group development.

5. Dissolution (“adjourning”)

Dissolution may be planned or spontaneous. Social exchange theory predicts that members may abandon the group when it no longer satisfies members’ social and interpersonal needs (i.e., lack of rewards). Dissolution can be stressful; debriefing or cohesion reduction may thus be useful.

Group Socialization

Group socialization refers to changes in the relationships between individuals in the group and the group itself. Socialization is a two-way process in which members are changed by the group and groups are changed by their members. The adaptation of members to their group is called assimilation, whereas the adjustment of groups to their members is referred to as accommodation.

Richard Moreland and John Levine (Moreland, 1985, 1987; Moreland & Levine, 1982, 1984, 1988; see Forsyth, 1990, p. 91) have formulated a comprehensive model of group socialization. Their model specifies three reciprocal socialization processes (evaluation, commitment, and role transition) and five socialization stages (investigation, socialization, maintenance, resocialization, and remembrance). The three socialization processes are operative at each of the five socialization stages.

Organizational Development

Organizational development refers to a collection of group approaches designed to promote adaptive change in organizations, based on the premise that organizational effectiveness can be enhanced by managing or controlling the processes of group development and group socialization.

Learning Objectives Relevant to Essay Preparation

• Tuckman’s stage model of group development

• Moreland and Levine’s model of group socialization

Key Terms, Concepts, and Names

Group development

Successive stages in group development

Orientation stage

Conflict stage

False (autistic) conflict

Contingent conflict

Stabilizing function of conflict resolution

Cohesion stage

Positive role of cohesion with regard to unity, stability, satisfaction, and internal dynamics

Negative aspects of cohesion in terms of conformity pressures and performance deficits

Relationship between cohesiveness and task performance


Cyclical model

Equilibrium model

Group socialization

Evaluation process

Commitment process

Role transition process

Investigation stage

Socialization stage



Maintenance stage

Resocialization stage

Remembrance stage

Organizational development

Bruce W. Tuckman

Richard Moreland and John Levine

Exercises and Discussion Questions

1. Briefly contrast successive-stage and cyclical models of group development with reference to a group to which you belong.

2. Discuss group development with reference to its typical stages and the major processes and characteristics associated with each stage.

3. Briefly explain the socialization processes and stages of socialization you went through as you were socialized into a particular group.

Supplementary Reading

The Group Development, Structure, and Organizational Development of the ‘93-94 Blazer Basketball Team [ This paper was revised and edited by Jill Literski, College of St. Benedict, December 1995.]

Jennifer Combs College of St. Benedict

December 1993


Every fall, basketball fans from around the St. Cloud area must wonder what is in store for the College of St. Benedict Blazer basketball team. The loss of key players to graduation and the addition of big-name high school recruits expected in the fall create a constant question of the development and structure of that year’s team. Who will fill which roles, and who will step up to lead the team? This year’s team raises some additional questions. How will the team respond to the loss of five seniors, to having two transfer students join the team, and to having only one returning senior? Who will step up and how successful will or can they be?

These are all important questions when examining a group and its productivity. In this paper I will first examine the Blazers’ development and structure, which in turn will form the basis for exploring their organizational development and ways to help increase their productivity and success. Although the Blazer basketball team is the focus of this paper, the principles of group development and structure may be applied to any group.

The literature on theories of group development, structure, and organizational development is so immense that I have chosen to focus on only a few of the many aspects of each of these. I will concentrate on the stages and cohesiveness of group development; role stress of group structure; and the team-building facet of organizational development as they apply to the Blazer basketball team. I believe this will offer a good perspective of the group dynamics of this year’s Blazer basketball team.


Due to the constant changes that a college athletic team goes through from year to year as students graduate and others join the college ranks, every season the developmental process must start anew. Some believe in a cyclical model of development, namely “that certain issues tend to dominate group interaction during the various phases of a group’s development, but they add that these issues can recur later in the life of the group” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 89). Although this theory does have merit, I believe that the Blazer basketball team follows Bruce Tuckman’s successive-stage model. This theory assumes that a group goes through several specific stages as it develops.

Tuckman’s Stage Model

Bruce Tuckman (1965) proposed a five-stage model of group development. In typical developmental sequence, these stages are “forming,” “storming,” “norming,” “performing,” and “adjourning” (pp. 396-397; see also Forsyth, 1990; p. 78).

Forming. This stage is characterized by group members getting to know one another. Due to the fact that many of the members are complete strangers there is often a certain amount of tension. “This ambiguous situation is further complicated by the absence of any specific norms regarding the regulation of interaction and goal attainment as well as uncertainty about their role in the group” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 78).

Application. This stage of development began in the early fall with the captain’s practices and “open gyms.” These initial meetings were at first uncomfortable as all the players got to know each other, especially the new players. There was also a certain amount of tension as the women tried to figure out what their role on the team would be. Would they start, would they get much playing time, would they be elected team captain, or even, would they make the team? These feelings began to subside as the women got to know one another, which led them to expose more of their personalities. All of these things together brought about increased feelings of interdependence.

Storming. This stage, also known as the conflict stage, often occurs “when the actions of one or more members of the group are incompatible with, and resisted by, one or more of the other group members” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 79). Such conflict may take many forms.

Application. The most apparent form of conflict in the basketball team is competition for a spot on the team. This conflict appeared during try-out week. The women were competing to see who would make the team and who would be cut. They were also contending for five starting positions and, for some, to see who would be named a captain. Competition is often a source of conflict (see chaps. 12 and 13) because if one member is to succeed another must fail. Although conflict such as this may seem detrimental to a group, it also can have favorable effects. For example, the competition that arose during try-out week made it possible for the coach to pick those players he thought would be most likely to contribute to the team’s success. The fact that trying out for the Blazer basketball team carries such a high cost helps promote cohesiveness among the team members; I will discuss this later.

Norming. “During the third developmental stage intermember conflict is replaced by cohesiveness: a feeling of group unity, camaraderie, and esprit de corps” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 83). This development of cohesion has various components. One may see increased group unity, stability (membership retention), satisfaction, and higher pressure to conform (Forsyth, 1990, pp. 83-84).

Application. Once the cuts had been made and certain roles had emerged, the team entered the norming stage. There was an increase in stability and satisfaction for those who had survived the cuts and made the team. Their anxiety levels had been lowered. Mike Durbin stepped forward as their leader and coach, abandoning his prior role as a more passive observer. He would be the one who would help the team reach their goals. He stressed the fact that the players were no longer individuals, but a team, and that they should begin to work as one. The team rules were concretely laid down and any doubt as to what constituted acceptable behavior was erased. They all had a common goal to win, and realized that to achieve this goal they must work together.

Performing. The performing stage began with the team’s first game. Forsyth (1990) states that “few groups are productive immediately; instead, productivity must usually wait until the group matures” (p. 85 ). The individuals need time to get to know and trust each other.

Application. Although they were “informally performing” at practices since mid-October, on November 30, the Blazers formally entered the performing stage with the advent of their first game. Although they did manage to win, they were not as productive as they would have liked. When one of the captains was asked how the game went, she said, “Typical first game — we made a lot of mistakes.” Therefore, even though they were successful by winning, they hoped to become more productive as the team matured, by cutting down on their mistakes.

Adjourning. The dissolution of groups can be planned or spontaneous. A spontaneous dissolution occurs when “an unanticipated problem arises that makes continued group interaction impossible” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 88).

Application. Barring a catastrophe, the Blazer basketball team will not undergo such a dissolution. The Blazers’ adjournment will be an example of a planned dissolution. It will take place “when the group accomplishes its prescribed goals or exhausts its time and resources” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 88). This dissolution will occur in March after the regular season is over and they have advanced as far as possible in postseason play. Although the team is already aware of the end before then, it can still be an extremely stressful time for the group members. For some, it will be the end of their college careers; for others the simple fact that they will never be a member of this particular team again can be hard. Some experts suggest that in order to minimize the stress, the leader should reduce the group’s cohesiveness prior to dissolution (Forsyth, 1990, p. 89). However, this is not an option when dealing with an athletic team. They must remain as cohesive as possible if they are going to be successful because the playoffs at the end of the season is the most important event in their life cycle as a group.


Not only is cohesion an important stage in Tuckman’s model, it is such a critical aspect of group dynamics that it is listed as one of six key group characteristics by Forsyth (1990, pp. 10-11). Cohesiveness can be defined as “all pressures or forces causing members to remain part of a group” (Baron & Byrne, 1991, p. 443). There are many factors that affect group cohesion, and the four most important ones — the cost of achieving group membership, competition, past success, and size of the group — can all be applied to the Blazer basketball team.

The Cost of Achieving Group Membership

The greater the cost of getting into a group the greater the cohesiveness (Baron & Byrne, 1991, p. 443). We saw this during the storming stage of development. The women who tried out for the basketball team were willing to take a risk. As they faced being cut and possible embarrassment there developed a bond among those who survived the cut. There is also the cost of time involved. In order to be a member of this team great amounts of study and social time must be sacrificed.


Groups facing severe competition are often highly cohesive (Baron & Byrne, 1991, p. 443). The Blazers face severe competition anywhere from two to three times a week. They know that if they are going to be successful when they compete, they must work together and “channel [their energies] in the direction of the opponent” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 400). This type of approach allows a kind of synergy to develop.

Past Success

Groups with a history of success are generally more cohesive than those with a record of past failures (Baron & Byrne, 1991, p. 443). Because the Blazers have been so successful in the past — last year advancing to the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) final four — one might expect that it will have a positive effect on this year’s team. However, up until this point I would not say that this year’s team is as cohesive as last year’s. This could partly be due to the fact that there are only three returning starters, and that two transfer students have joined the team. This is not to say that they will not, or cannot, become cohesive. As stated before, the team needs time to mature and grow as a group before a meaningful increases in cohesion can be seen.

Size of the Group

Groups that are relatively small tend to be more cohesive than larger groups (Baron & Byrne, 1991, p. 443). The Blazer team is made up of 20 players and four coaches. A group of this size permits direct interaction among members, thus fostering good group cohesion.


As a group develops it forms a certain structure, the “underlying pattern of stable relationships among the group members” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 110). Although the concept of group structure also encompasses authority, attraction, and communication, what is most intriguing as it pertains to this year’s Blazer basketball team, is roles. However, because at the time of this writing it is still so early in the season and the team is only just beginning to see the emergence of roles, I will focus on some already apparent causes of role stress.

Role Stress

When the structure of a particular group is defined and different roles emerge they can carry considerable stress for those assigned to them. This is particularly likely when “the behaviors associated with the role are poorly defined (role ambiguity) or inconsistent with one another (role conflict)” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 115 ). To maximize their success, it is extremely important that group members know exactly what is expected of them and that it is not more than they can handle.

Role ambiguity. Role ambiguity may occur when people do not understand what is being asked of them. This often occurs when one is new to a situation and is uncertain of what to expect. This can be the case with freshmen on college athletic teams. Perhaps she was a star in high school and now is playing the role of a reserve. This may be unfamiliar to her and is capable of causing a considerable amount of stress. She has no idea what is expected or how to behave.

Role conflict. Individuals being pressured by the fact that they must play two or more roles concurrently may experience role conflict (Baron & Byrne, 1991, p. 442). This is apparent in the conflict between the players’ dual roles of athlete and student. Study may often be neglected due to long hours in the gym. Therefore, it is important for a coach to help an athlete set priorities. It is also possible that this year’s assistant coach, who was a teammate just last year, is experiencing a type of role conflict. Her desire to hold on to her former role as friend and teammate conflicts with her new role as assistant coach.

Organizational Development

More and more groups are looking for ways to increase their productivity and success. This often involves “assessing the organization’s current stage of development, identifying future goals, and developing the means to achieve these organizational goals” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 100). This can be done with a variety of techniques. The method I will examine is team building.

The goal of team building is “improving effectiveness by building cohesion, clarifying structure, and reducing conflict.” This can be done through “role analysis, interpersonal skill training, training in communication, retreats and workshops” (Forsyth, 1990, table 4-3, p. 101). This method is often used by teams that want to build a sense of team unity.

Team unity is an important precursor to peak performance. When team members are united (cohesive), each individual embraces the group’s goal as their own. But how do you achieve this? A number of different tactics could be used. It should be noted how intimately these tactics are related to some of the key group characteristics discussed by Forsyth (1990, chap. 1), notably goals, group structure (roles, communication, and leadership), and cohesiveness (unity).

First, develop team goals. As a team, what do you want to accomplish? By defining team goals, every team member is aware of what they are working towards and can thus help to create an interactive environment. Second, roles should be defined. Rivalries and conflict can be avoided if each individual recognizes her role within the group. Third, create a group identity. Give your team a name such as “The Blazers.” Order team jackets and sweatshirts, which will create unity. Reinforce the team concept, always using the terms “we” and “us,” which fosters cohesiveness. Plan some sort of retreat or fun activity outside of basketball to help the players bond more closely. Finally, develop an open atmosphere. Allow the team members to take some ownership of their team. Encourage communication among all team members as well as the coaches. This will help to prevent group conflict. Use a participatory style of leadership whenever possible. Employing such team-building techniques will pay off handsomely in keeping your team happy and successful.


At the time of writing, this season’s Blazer basketball team had been in existence for only a short while. Although we have already seen several aspects of the group’s development and structure take shape, the team’s evolution as a group is far from over. In this paper, I have only begun to scratch the surface of this group’s dynamics. After the end of the season it will be possible to look at the remaining elements involved in this team’s dynamics.

A group can increase its productivity and happiness if its members are aware of the areas where things can go wrong. There will never be a Blazer basketball team exactly like the ‘92-93 team, but if we observe the development and structure of teams to come we may be able to avoid some pitfalls and mold our teams into the happy and successful groups that we would like them to be.


Baron, B., & Byrne, D. (1991). Social psychology: Understanding human interaction. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Forsyth, D. R. (1990). Group dynamics (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.

Supplementary Reading

Group Socialization and a Winning Tradition

Brian P. O’Kane

St. John’s University

December 1993


The Saint John’s University football program has experienced overwhelming success (see, for example, Klein, 1992; Murphy, 1992; Nader, 1993; Vega, 1993) over the past 45 years under the reign of legendary head coach, John Gagliardi. As a four-year member of this team, I have been able to experience this group’s dynamics first hand. With freshmen entering the program and senior players graduating each year, it seems very interesting that the characteristics of the team change little, and the winning tradition remains intact.

Many unique methods make up the Saint John’s football program (SJFP). It is my belief that our system of group socialization is not only unique, but that it also breeds success. In this paper I will analyze the three processes (evaluation, commitment, and role transition) and the five stages (investigation, socialization, maintenance, resocialization, and remembrance) of group socialization, as presented by Forsyth (1990), Moreland (1985) and Moreland and Levine (1982). I will give examples from my own personal experience to support the idea that socialization, among other things, contributes to success in the SJFP.

Survey of the Literature on Group Socialization

Group socialization is defined as “changes in the relationship between the individuals in the group and the group itself” (Forsyth 1990, p. 90). This paper focuses on the three major processes and five major stages of group socialization. These processes and stages are based on the studies of Richard Moreland and John Levine (1982; Moreland, 1985) as presented in their own works, and in the textbook by Donelson Forsyth (1990).

Socialization Processes

According to Forsyth (1990, p. 91), the comprehensive model formulated by Moreland and Levine “assumes that group socialization is intimately linked to three dynamic, reciprocal processes: evaluation, commitment, and role transition.”

Evaluation. Evaluation is the first major process of group socialization. As noted by Forsyth (1990), during the evaluation process “individuals appraise the group, and the group appraises them” (p. 90). It is a time when individuals and groups weigh the costs versus the rewards of joining the group and assess whether an individual has the characteristics to be a potential member. According to Moreland and Levine (1982), “rewards are acts that fall within the range of tolerable behavior on a given dimension, and costs are acts that fall outside this range” (p. 143). As Forsyth (1990) points out, “social-exchange theory suggests that the exchange of rewards and costs is critical” (p. 91); in most cases the benefits must substantially outweigh the costs for an individual to want to join a group, or for a group to invite an individual to join. Forsyth further notes that “one’s assumptions about the value of groups in general can also influence the evaluation process” (p. 91). Thus, people who have had trouble performing in groups in the past will be more reluctant to join groups in the future, whereas people who have had good experiences with groups will tend to see them as beneficial, and will seek out future group membership (p. 91).

Commitment. Commitment is the second major socialization process. Forsyth (1990) contends that a committed group member is one who is expected to remain in the group for a considerable period, contributing positively to the achievement of group goals. Also, a committed group is one that does what it can to keep its members. When a group shows little commitment toward its members, the members themselves will probably not be as committed to the group. “Groups are more committed to individuals who help them attain group goals, and individuals are more committed to groups that help them satisfy personal needs” (Moreland & Levine, 1982, p. 145).

Role transition. Role transition is the third and final major process of group socialization. Forsyth (1990) writes that “individuals usually move through a variety of roles,” noting that Moreland and Levine (1982) “stress the importance of three: nonmember, quasi-member, and full member” (p. 95). Nonmembers are any individuals who are not current members of the group. They can be future or former members, but do not have direct or partial membership. Quasi-members are in a true transition stage of either waiting for full membership, or being forced out of the group. Full members are directly related and active in the group (p. 95). Moreland and Levine (1982) observed that, “in order to reduce disagreements about whether a transition did occur, many groups evolve formal rites of passage to provide a public demonstration that a transition has in fact taken place” (p. 151).

Socialization Stages

Forsyth (1990), in his presentation of the work of Moreland and Levine (e.g., 1982) writes that group members “often move through five fundamental stages: investigation, socialization, maintenance, resocialization, and remembrance” (p. 95). Forsyth further notes that, within each of these five stages, “the individual and the group evaluate each other, and the level of commitment also increases and decreases as the individual progresses through the socialization process” (p. 95). To recap: these are, in fact, the three socialization processes referred to in the preceding section.

Investigation. Investigation, the first stage of group socialization, has two distinct aspects: reconnaissance and recruitment. Reconnaissance, as described by Forsyth (1990), occurs when “potential members compare available groups with one another to determine which ones will best fulfill their needs” (p. 96). “Groups, in turn, engage in recruitment as they try to estimate the value of each individual who is interested in joining them” (p. 96).

Socialization. Socialization — characterized by the mutual processes of assimilation and accommodation — is the stage where individuals move from being potential members, to actually becoming new members. As stated by Moreland (1985), prior to the start of the socialization process, “newcomers are often confused and anxious, unfamiliar with the group and uneasy about their acceptance” (p. 1175). As explicated by Forsyth (1990), assimilation occurs when “the individual accepts the group’s norms, values, and perspectives” (p. 97). It is important to note, however, that both the new member and the group changes as a result of socialization; “through accommodation the group adapts to fit the newcomer’s needs” (p. 97). In this regard, Forsyth (1990) has noted that “even seasoned group members must adjust as the group changes through adding new members, adopting new goals in place of old objectives, or modifying status and role relationships” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 97). The individual will not become a full member until acceptance (the role transition from investigation to socialization) has taken place. Once again, however, it is a situation of mutual acceptance, where both the individual and the group must see the other as beneficial. Ultimately, the goal of socialization “is to make the new member progressively more similar to a full member” (Moreland & Levine, 1982, p. 163).

Maintenance. The major task of maintenance is role negotiation, where “the group and the individual negotiate the nature and quantity of each member’s expected contribution to the group” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 97). Role negotiation takes place when the group needs a member to perform in a different context, or the member feels his or her skills will be better utilized in a different position. This, incidentally, clearly illustrates the dynamic relationship between group socialization and group structure (cf. Forsyth, 1990, chap. 5). As indicated below, if role negotiation fails because mutual acceptance of needs cannot be reached, the result will be divergence, a role transition to resocialization (Forsyth, 1990, pp. 97-98).

Resocialization. Resocialization is the stage which deals with divergence, determining whether or not an individual wants to or will be allowed to continue as a full member. “During resocialization the former member takes on the role of a marginal member whose future in the group is uncertain” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 98). If assimilation and accommodation can occur between the group and the marginal member, convergence occurs. If this fails, the member in question will exit the group (role transition) and become a nonmember (Forsyth, 1990, p. 98).

Remembrance. Remembrance occurs “when the individual and the group finally reach a parting of the ways, [and] one final task remains: the ex-member and the remaining group members review their shared experience” (Forsyth, 1990, p. 98). According to Moreland and Levine (1990), “remembrance begins with exit and ends when the individual and the group pass completely out of each other’s awareness and thereby lose all feelings of commitment to one another” (p. 178). Through remembrance, members reminisce about past experiences, and traditions are established (Forsyth, 1990, p. 98).

Application: Socialization in the Saint John’s Football Program

Socialization Processes

Evaluation. At Saint John’s University (SJU) there are few things about the program that a potential player might view as costs. Some possible costs are the relatively high tuition rate compared to public universities and the absence of athletic scholarships. Although these aspects do hinder some prospects, they ultimately benefit the program. The tuition rate, along with strict academic requirements, more often than not assure that the football program is loaded with dedicated students who will not need special academic attention. For me, the rewards greatly outweighed the costs of joining the SJFP. A winning reputation, respect throughout the nation, more media coverage than any other school in the region, and the opportunity of playing for one of the greatest college football coaches of our time were just some of the rewards. As the coaches evaluated me, in turn, they saw my lack of speed as a potential cost. This was overlooked in favor of my good hands, size, blocking ability, and the fact that I came from a high school football program with a strong winning record.

Commitment. Commitment was easy for me in the environment of the SJFP. As a new member of the program, the coaches and players made it clear that I was a welcome addition to their group. My needs were to find a program with a winning record that could use my skills as a football player. The SJFP provided all of this from the beginning to the end of my four-year career. Also, the group remained committed to me as I worked hard to help the team reach its goals, and was flexible in role transition. Our main goal was to win as many games as possible. In my four years we were 38-6-1. Success in reaching this goal was a reason for such continued commitment on behalf of the program and myself.

Role transition. Role transition occurred many times in my career. I began as a nonmember with no ties to the SJFP. Then, as I was recruited, I entered the quasi-member role waiting for acceptance into the group. As I be came a full member, I was issued a red Saint John’s football jacket as a “rite of passage” into the program. Currently I am a quasi-member. This is due to the fact that my four years of eligibility have run out, and my last season as a student and a player has ended. I feel that one reason for the team’s success is that it deals with role transition very smoothly, being careful not to run players off the team unintentionally. Our system brings about many more situations of convergence than divergence.

Socialization Stages

Investigation. Investigation was the first step in my being socialized into the SJFP. I compared the SJFP with others that recruited me, including North Dakota State University, Mankato State University, the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud State University, and many other smaller schools. The SJFP stood out to me for several reasons. John Gagliardi had the most impressive reputation of all my choices. The idea of not having full contact in practice was very appealing to me. Also, the academic standards and reputation of SJU far outweighed that of my other choices. Recruitment at SJU was very relaxed compared to the other schools I visited, which called repeatedly and made home visits. I received one phone call from John Gagliardi on a Sunday afternoon asking if I would like to visit the campus. His perception of my abilities as a football player was based only on what he and the other coaches had seen me do on the films of some of my high school games. This was enough for him to invite me into the program, and the way he treated me on the day of my visit was enough for me to accept. This down-to-earth, honest style of recruitment helps to give prospects a clear view of what the SJFP is all about.

Socialization. Socialization was one of the most enjoyable aspects of my four years. At most other schools initiation is a big tradition, and hazing is used to put freshmen “in their place.” In the SJFP, first-year players are treated as though they have been on the team for years. You become part of the tradition from the outset of the assimilation process, and that tradition includes respecting others. I think this contributes to success at SJU because freshmen aren’t quite as intimidated by upperclassmen, enabling them to develop confidence, not self-doubt. Assimilation is achieved through watching great plays in film sessions where players not only learn the correct way to do things on the field, but also what not to do. They also hear stories from the past and present that socialize them to the group’s beliefs, norms, values, and perceptions. I found it very easy to accept the beliefs of a group that knew how to have so much fun, won lots of games, and showed respect to new members.

Maintenance. Maintenance was most evident from the end of my junior year to the beginning of my senior year. I was beaten out at the fullback position after starting for seven games in 1992, and Gagliardi wanted me to play tight end in the 1993 season. Though this represented role transition, it was very easy for me as I had played some tight end in high school and liked the position. Also, the SJU offense was built around a very frequent passing attack, so I was sure to remain an important element in the group structure of the team. In his role as head coach, Gagliardi has been very successful in fitting talent with positions, allowing role transition to occur with a minimum of conflict. In my case, the program accommodated my needs by putting me at the tight- end position, and I was easily assimilated into that role because of my former experience as a high school tight end.

Resocialization. Resocialization is felt by those players who have uncertain futures in the program. Fortunately for me, convergence into a new position took place before any substantial divergence had a chance to develop. In other cases, a player might decide that his needs are not being met by the program, in which case divergence would culminate in his exit from the group. Gagliardi’s “no-cut” policy leaves it up to the player whether he wants to leave the program or not.

Remembrance. Remembrance in the SJFP is symbolized by our annual banquet at which each senior gives his final speech (another rite of passage). This helps underclassmen see how important the program has been, and fosters further commitment within remaining group members. We talk about strange and bizarre things that occurred throughout our careers, and about some of the great records we broke and goals we accomplished. If, as stated by Moreland and Levine (1982), the remembrance stage doesn’t end until departing group members and the group lose all feelings of commitment to one another, this stage will be of extended duration.


I have attempted in this paper to show how group dynamics theory pertaining to group socialization may be applied to yield novel insights into the recruitment and coaching methods practiced by Coach John Gagliardi, the experiences of the team and its members, and the contribution of these dynamics to a winning tradition at Saint John’s University.