team psychology

Keeping it social!

Clubs and societies are an important part of student life at uni.  At the University of Portsmouth there are over 190 sports clubs, societies, media groups and volunteering opportunities.

We caught up to with Vicky, a BSc(Hons) Biomedical Science student and member of the University of Portsmouth Equestrian Society to find out what it’s all about.

18094721_1919330244946068_7950504941917831168_n

Vicky is on a work placement at the moment but will be back on campus in September to start her final year.

18094830_1898181213775220_6622635825773412352_n

Whilst at uni, Vicky is also a part of the Equestrian Society. This society offers riding, jumping and polo lessons.  Even if you haven’t ridden a horse before. Not only that, but there are socials and the chance to compete against other universities!

Check out this video of when Vicky’s team went to play at the University Nationals. Their polo tournament is know as SUPA, which is the Schools and Universities Polo Association. It runs twice a year, in the winter and summer, and takes place over four days.

18095819_258256837980305_5196064817818894336_n

For polo, Vicky’s team travel to Guildford, where they are lucky enough to train at student prices. They usually take the train or car share, which gives them a chance to chat about the lesson and make preparations for any tournaments.

18094654_1481644085231994_8018687938583855104_n

In the Winter, Vicky went to SUPA. Their teams did really well…including the beginners team placing 1st, and their novice team placing 4th! Vicky has been to four SUPA tournaments, and here are some of her pictures, including one from her first tournament and when she received second place prize.

18096418_801213703378541_5142502065922113536_n

Apart from tournaments, the club also organises socials and events for the team to get together and chill out. Here are some snaps of when Vicky went to the riding holiday in Sicily, and from their Christmas meal.

17881350_291414117983250_5623587558974816256_n

Here, Vicky showed us what you need to join the club, but what you really need to get is a traditional riding helmet! The club provides kit, such as mallets, knee pads and team tops. But, the option is there to get the full gear if you want to.

18095438_1317283984986284_8297186545908056064_n

Unlike clubs run at school, sixth form or colleges, university clubs and societies are run by the students themselves, and they are helped by the students union. Each club or society has a committee, which is a group of students elected by the club. Taking on these responsibilities is a great addition for your CV and helps you to develop great skills.

Vicky put herself forward as part of the club committee for organizing the polo committee, and was elected into the role, which she’ll begin next year.

Let’s wish her lots of luck!

Six steps to team spirit that helped Leicester win the league

Will Thomas, University of Sussex

Leicester’s story is one of the most, if not the most, remarkable in sporting history. At 5,000/1 to win the Premier League at the start of the season, the bookies thought it was more likely that Elvis would be found alive (2,000/1) or that the Loch Ness monster would turn up (500/1). There has been much discussion about the spirit in the squad, but it’s worth nailing down exactly what we mean here using the latest research in team psychology. It helps tell us how such a long shot can transpire, but only if all the psychological pieces fall into place.

Research I have been conducting with Rupert Brown and Vivian Vignoles suggests that team identity can be used to predict perceived and actual team performance. Using a unique sample of amateur and elite level teams including Olympic, military and Premier League squads, we suggest potentially six psychological foundations – or what are termed identity motives – that can cause individuals to identify with a team. Leicester City, knowingly or not, appears to have the lot.

Distinctiveness motive

While managers like Manchester United’s Louis Van Gaal fret over pass completion stats, the newly crowned champions play a fast-paced counter-attacking brand of football. Indeed, the Foxes have the worst pass completion rate in the league, but they’re not afraid to play three misplaced passes if the forth one leads to a goal. This distinctive style is part of their identity, which crucially informs how they play on the pitch.

Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez attempts to launch another attack.
EPA/TIM KEETON

Belonging motive

Players, especially in the Premier League, need to feel loved and accepted and view the team as inclusive. Given the alleged player revolt against manager Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, it’s easy to see how damaging it can be when teams fail to create the inclusive environment needed to build a strong team identity.

Quite how this is done is hard to distil into a single idea. Perhaps the strong bonds between Leicester players were forged during their Christmas night out dressed up as ninja turtles, or perhaps when boss Claudio Ranieri buys them all Pizza for getting a clean sheet. Or even, maybe, when left-back joker Christian Fuchs played egg roulette with striker Jamie Vardy. Whatever they are doing, it’s certainly working.

Claudio Ranieri heads for the team bus after joining the Leicester team for a celebratory pizza.
EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

Continuity motive

Although Ranieri came into the Leicester setup at the start of the season, when the club sought to build on its already remarkable escape from relegation the previous year, he noticed the style and strength of the team. Unlike other managers, he has persisted with most of the first team players he inherited and not tried to drastically alter the team or impose his philosophy. A tip there, perhaps for Van Gaal).

Players also know that he will be there next season, which can’t be said for either of the Manchester clubs. This continuity from past to present to future has enabled the Foxes to build on the legacy of the club, another cornerstone of a strong team identity.

Meaning motive

Players need to feel they have an important purpose and role in the team. Ranieri has dealt with benching players brilliantly. Leonardo Ulloa was a big deal when he signed from Brighton for £8m in 2013. But with the form of Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the Argentinian was left on the bench for most of the season.

Crucially though, he wasn’t left out in the cold. Ranieri made sure that Ulloa understood he still had an important role to play in team. His recent goals, in Vardy’s absence through suspension, had a big impact on Leicester’s title tilt.

Efficacy motive

Our research suggests that if members view their elite teams as capable of achieving their objectives, they are more likely to identify with the team. And what was Leicester’s objective? To avoid relegation. Leicester chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, told Ranieri at the start of the season:

Claudio, this is a very important year for the club. It is very important for us to stay in the Premier League. We have to stay safe.

Having seemingly achieved their goal within the first few months, Leicester were then able to play with a freedom and expression not seen by others. Take Chelsea. Once the players realised the title was out of reach (their objective before the start of the season), they appeared to start playing for themselves, rather than the team.

All for one?
John Cooper/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Esteem motive

The final identity motive relates to esteem. If team members feel positive and proud to be part the a team, they are more likely to identify with it. Leicester players must be incredibly proud of being part of a unit that has surpassed all expectations. There is no fear of failure, as they never expected to finish in the top half of the table, let alone challenging for domestic honours.

If the likes of Leicester captain and defender Wes Morgan have a bad game, no one will say anything. In contrast, Wayne Rooney was heavily criticised on Twitter after England’s friendly win over Germany, even though he didn’t kick a ball. Leicester’s positivity underpins a strong team identity.

There is no doubt that Leicester have some good players, but looking at the whole squad and comparing it to the so-called “top” clubs, it’s easy to see why they were such long shots to lift the title. The Foxes’ remarkable triumph demonstrates how six elements of team psychology can build a strong team identity, that in turn can radically transform a collection of players into something far greater than the sum of its parts. Mind you, as a Spurs fan, I can’t help but wish they had chosen a different year.

The Conversation

Will Thomas, PhD researcher in elite team psychology, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.