Sport and Exercise Psychology Movie

Motivation in “Remember the Titans”

Briefly summarize the movie

Remember the Titans” is a 2000 movie based on real events to celebrate T.C. Williams High School’s 1971 Virginia state football champions. Denzel Washington and Will Patton play Coach Herman Boone and his assistant coach, Bill Yoast, respectively. Ten years earlier, in 1971, an African American coach, Herman Boone, was appointed to coach T. C. Williams High School’s football team. He was hired to work under Coach Bill Yoast, but in order to ease the rising racial tensions; Boone replaced Yoast and became the head coach. As they continue with their training, black and white team members often engage in racially instigated conflicts. However, after rigorous coaching and training by the tough, opinionated Boone, the athletes achieve racial tolerance and success.

Explain the use of the mental skills in the movie

In “Remember the Titans,” the use of mental skills is evident throughout the movie, particularly in how Coach Herman Boone applies psychological strategies to address racial tensions and enhance team cohesion. The coach exhibits effective leadership and communication skills by encouraging open dialogue among team members, maintaining discipline, and setting clear expectations. His robust presence and capability to communicate his vision of a united team help shape a positive team culture. Throughout the movie, Boone employs a visualization approach to help the athletes psychologically prepare for competitions. He inspires them to envisage their success on the field, nurturing a sense of self-confidence and enhanced performance. He also uses constructive reinforcement to motivate and elevate the players. He highlights their strengths, acknowledges their improvements, and celebrates their achievements, furthering the athletes’ confidence and motivation.

Overview the theoretical development of the mental skill (e.g., from lecture, class notes, book, other research articles)

The theoretical development of the mental skill of motivation has advanced over time through numerous psychological theories and perceptions. Motivation refers to the internal processes that initiate, lead, and sustain goal-oriented behaviors. Comprehending the fundamental factors that motivate people to take action and stick to their determinations has been a dominant focus of psychological research. Several vital theories have contributed to the understanding of motivation. These include:

  • Need achievement theory Is used to predict relevant performance outcomes and task preferences. It concerns various interactional factors such as behavioral tendencies, emotional reactions, and personal and situational factors.
  • Competence motivation theory: According to this theory, people are mainly motivated to feel competent or worthy. For example, Boone’s athletes wanted to feel that they were excellent football players.
  • Achievement goal theory States that an individual’s motivation is determined by the interaction of three factors (achievement behavior, perceived ability, and achievement goals).
  • Self-determination theory: Contends that generally, people are motivated to satisfy three needs: the need for autonomous, competent, and social belonging ( e.g., Boone’s players loved to be part of the Titans).
  • Attribution theory: Investigates what individuals attribute their successes or failures to. Coach Boone, for example, would attribute the success of his team to his mental toughness, ability and determination.

The development of the theoretical understanding of motivation as a mental skill has shifted from simplistic models to more comprehensive and nuanced outlooks that consider emotional, social, and cognitive factors.

Present a critique, based on the theoretical development, of how the movie portrayed both appropriate and inappropriate strategies in developing mental skills

The movie Remember the Titans effectively depicts the significance of solid leadership and vibrant communication in developing mental skills. Boone’s leadership style aligns with theories such as the Competence Motivation Theory, as he motivates his players to feel competent or worthy of, their race notwithstanding. The movie shows the importance of addressing conflicts and adopting open communication to develop mental skills. This approach aligns with theories like Self-Determination Theory, as solving conflicts leads to fulfilling the need for affiliation and independence among team members, leading to higher intrinsic motivation.  

Sometimes, the movie appears to portray the coaches applying high levels of stress and pressure as motivational tools. Their approach controverts the principles of motivation theories. For example, it contradicts the Self-Determination Theory since unduly enforced pressure can lead to a decline in intrinsic motivation and a focus on extrinsic rewards, possibly weakening athletes’ long-term commitment.  Though it emphasizes the players’ shared goal of winning the state championship, it does not profoundly explore into individualized motivation. The exclusion of individual goals and intrinsic motivations for individual athletes undermines the intuitions provided by Achievement Goal Theory, which highlights the need for setting specific and individual goals.

Identify what you would do differently in working with the team, athlete, or individual portrayed in the movie

The coaches focus on the athletes’ collective motivation to win the state championship. However, I would have recognized and nurtured each player’s personal motivations. I would have taken time to understand every athlete’s individual interests, values, and goals. This practice would have allowed for a more custom-made approach to motivation. This aligns with theories like the Expectancy-Value Theory and Self-Determination Theory that highlight the importance of intrinsic motivation and tailored goals. What is more, instead of depending entirely on external stress and pressures to motivate the athletes, I would have adopted a more balanced approach. I would emphasize the significance of personal growth, skill development, and process-oriented goals alongside the pursuit of success. This practice advocates the ideologies of Goal-Setting Theory that argues for setting both challenging and attainable goals.

Address implications for your own field. For example, how would you apply what you have learned from the movie and through theory to develop this same mental skill (e.g., goal setting) as a fitness leader