The People Behind the Helmets

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As I mentioned in my previous post, the unfolding crisis at PSU has had an impact on everybody associated with the university.  In this post I'll be looking at potential effects on the football players... how they are coping with being a student athlete and a member of a sports team with this mess unfolding around them.  Jerry Sandusky was at Penn State because of football.  Football plays an enormous roll in the schools social and financial life and the football team is probably the most public ambassador to the school.  This being said, members of the team now have to continue to operate as a team while under close scrutiny.  A former member of their organizations is alleged to have committed unthinkable crimes and now it is up to them to deal with the attention while continue to produce as a team.

The football team has managed to pull through this season with a 9-3 record, only losing to high-ranked teams.  I think that part of this was due to their ability to preserve team cohesion.  The course text describes team cohesion and its' elements.  Carron, Brawley & Widmeyer (1997) point out that cohesion is multidimensional, dynamic, affective, and instrumental.  Multidimensional in that it is the result of not one factor but many, dynamic in that it can fluctuate, affective in that it has to do with the emotional state of athletes, and instrumental in that it works to accomplishing team goals and objectives (Carron, Brawley, & Widmeyer, 1997).  The current team's success at banding together and continuing to perform well could have something to do with a high degree of instrumental team cohesion.  These players knew what their goals were and despite the turmoil and distractions around them, worked towards these goals.

The course text states "Bandura (1997) defined collective efficacy as a group's shared belief in its ability to organize and execute the courses of action required to obtain a certain outcome" (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2005).  It's reasonable to think that, because of the football teams' success in the early part of the season only having lost 1 game, that they had a high degree of collective efficacy.  They knew they had the tools and the ability to win games, regardless of what was going on around them.  The text even goes on to say that based off Bandura's (1986, 1997) and others research (Feltz & Chase, 1998), "the most powerful factor affecting confidence is previous experience" (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2005).  Members of this team didn't have to be the best of friends.  Their previous performance and success informed their collective efficacy which in turn informed their present performance.  Although it is remained to be seen what their performance will be like in the final bowl game of the season, there's evidence to suggest that they should compete well.


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Carron, A.V., Brawley, L.R., & Widmeyer, W.N. (1997). The measurement of cohesiveness in sports groups. In J.L. Duda (Ed.), Advances in sport and exercise psychology measurement. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Feltz, D.L., & Chase, M.A. (1998). The measurement of self-efficacy and confidence in sport. In J.L. Duda (Ed.), Advancements in sport and exercise psychology measurement (pp. 65-80). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

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I think the team has done an exceptional job the seasons. How they remain so focused I can’t imagine. I am curious in their affectivity. Affectivity refers to an athletes’ emotional condition. Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2005, p. 133) Could this whole tragedy be considered an antecedent of the teams cohesion?
This whole tragedy is very sad. I am a parent and it saddens and angers me all at the same time. I am baffled by the actions and decisions made by individuals involved. I hope that he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It makes you wonder should there be laws against the bystander effect occurring when there is a child involved? I think so…. Children are helpless and unable to defend themselves. No one should turn a blind eye to child abuse
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2005). Applied Social Psychology:
Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412915397

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