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Roles in Groups

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As groups are forming it is easy to see that each group member has unique skills and strengths. As a group starts to develop, each group member starts to play a certain role within the group. Roles are very important within in a group because they are part of the basic structure. The roles of small groups are not usually assigned in advance, but overtime emerge within the group. Roles within a group can arise from individuals stepping up to fulfill a role or they already have the skills needed to fulfill a certain role. The group roles can be seen predominantly in the movie “Cool Runnings” where four Jamaican men join together with a coach to become Jamaica’s first ever bobsled team. As the new bobsled team is starting their journey toward the Olympic Games, the five characters must learn how to work together as a group. The members of the bobsled team all have different skills and strengths that start to contribute to the overall success of the group. As the movie continues the team members begin to take on informal individual roles within the group. These informal roles can be explained in three main categories consisting of task roles, maintenance roles, and disruptive roles.

The first main role category of a group is called task roles which according to Rothwell “Move the group toward the attainment of its goals. The central communication function of task roles is to extract the maximum productivity from the group (123)”. The task roles are very important because once a group knows what it wants to accomplish, these roles help the group accomplish its task. In the movie “Cool Runnings” the group’s goal is to compete in the Olympic Games. In order to accomplish this goal the team depends on their coach Irv who early on becomes the task roles character. As the teams coach he serves as the main contributor providing the team with ideas and strategies in order to be a successful group. The coach was also the information giver who according to Rothwell “Acts as a resource person for the group (124)”. Irv was the information giver because of his previous years of personal experience.

Being a former Olympic coach Irv is able to provide his new group with relevant information. He teaches the skills of being a good bobsled team threw training exercises and teamwork. Irv also used videos and pictures to teach his driver derice how to memorize the course, this became very useful information to the group and helped move the group towards it goal. One of the most important roles Irv also served as was the clarifier or person who gives explanations or provides explanations. Since the bobsled team was new to the sport, Irv became the main source for answers. He had to explain the rules and answer all of the group’s questions. This was because He was the only member in the group that had any prior knowledge or experience of bobsledding. He had to teach the team to cooperate with each other as a group and promote effective team work. Bobsledding being a group sport put a lot of pressures on Irv to fulfill the task roles category. His team relied on him to contribute helpful information and suggestions to help the group achieve their goal of competing in the Olympics. Irv was successful in playing as the group’s task roles representative because he fulfilled his responsibilities and led the group to eventually achieve the overall goal of making it to the Olympics.

The second main role category of a group is the maintence roles which can be defined as “Focus on the social dimension of the group. The central communicative function of maintence roles is to gain and maintain the cohesiveness of the group (123)”. The character who took on the maintenance roles of the group was the driver Derice. He served as the supporter of the group who provided the team with praise and constantly increased spirits. He dedicated most of his time to keeping the group on track. The bobsled team was expected to fail by almost everybody outside the group and Derice made sure that his team kept a positive attitude. From the begining of the movie to the end, he made his team believe that hey could prove the world wrong and become the first ever Jamaican bobsled team. At various points of the movie when it looked like the team was going to give up hope, Derice found a way to encourage his team members. When the team didn’t have enough money to go to the Olympics and the team was down, he did every thing he could to get the team to raise money.

Derice as served as the harmonizer or person who is the peace keeper. At the begining of the movie two of the bobsled team members hated each other from a previous encounter, and derice was able to help resolve their differences. This was a big role for Derice because he was able to reconcile their differences and form the first Jamaican bobsled team. Junior who was another member of the group also fulfilled a maintenance role. This was the role of the feeling expresser. He had a good feeling about the bobsled team and made it possible for the team to travel to the Olympics. Junior had differences with the group members, but always expressed his feelings in a positive way. He would avoid confrontations with his teammates and try to use his feelings and words instead of his fists. Yol, another group member was constantly picking on junior, but junior always found a way to use his feelings to resolve the situation. He talked about things in his heart like his goals dreams to change the mood of the group from negative to positive.

The last main role category of a group is the disruptive roles which “serve individual needs or goals while impeding attainment of group goals. The central communicative function of self-centered, disruptive roles is to focus attention on the individual (123)”.

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