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Group Dynamics

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Rather than hijack my own thread on trust and confidence, I thought that the issue of group dynamics would be an interesting issue to explore. This was my last reply in the other thread:

Speaking of competitiveness, the way an instructor deals with this group dynamic can have a strong influence on a students trust and confidence. I have this theory that there are two types of students in any physical activity group.

These are the people who always have to be right behind the instructor, if not ahead of them. In a fitness class, they always have to be in the front line.

These are the people who thrive on team spirit. They will encourage their fellow students and compliment them. They accept compliments humbly and graciously.

While I am of the later type, ironically, I am often up front when skiing with my regular Sunday class. This is not because I'm so good. Since I live at altitude, I am sometimes the only person in class who is breathing properly. If another student expresses any envy whatsoever of my speed {which, btw, I still find hilarious!} I will explain this to them. Then I will try to stay at the back of the group.

If I'm in a group where the other participants are more competitive and jockish, I can get traumatized if the instructor allows this to go too far. This is where the confidence/trust issue comes in. Competitors are usually capable of taking care of themselves. They are, for the most part, less concerned with how much they trust the instructor, because they have a reasonable degree of self-trust.

Nurturers are so busy being supportive to other class mates that they often forget to take care of themselves. In a mixed group, these are the people who may need ressurance from the instructor that their skill level is in fact on the par with the their more competive classmates.

Group dynamics is a large part of why people return to a particular class. I know of some students who adore a certain instructor, but will not return to their regular group lessons because they do not like the learning style of the other students.
One of the many reasons I enjoy returning to my regular Sunday group is that I enjoy skiing with some of the students who return regularly. Last Sunday, a 16 year old girl was placed in our group. When Mike told her we would work on cleaning up technique in the morning, then proceed to ski blue and black diamond bump runs, she started whining "can't we ski double blacks?" I looked at Mike and pointed up to the higher level group. Even though I had the suspicion that she was really not technically good enough to ski double blacks, I didn't want to ski with a teenager with attitude. He moved her up, but as suspected, in the ski-off, her skills showed much to be desired. However, they kept her in the higher level group, which, IMHO was a good thing. Her attitude would have destroyed the congenial atmosphere of our group.

How much of group dynamics influences the suscess or failure of a class?
post #2 of 4
Ever read "In the Yikes Zone, Conversions With Fear" by Mermer Blakeslee ? Lot's of good stuff on group dynamics. Most of the book contains reallife examples of dealing with various personality types on the slopes. Excellent reading for any instructor or serious skier.
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
I just re-read Mermer's chapter on group dynamics. Some good stuff. She speaks of how different people in a group react to skiing challenging terrain. Some get totally macho, some get withdrawn and quiet, some chit chat endlessly. I am one of those people who get very quiet. If I am around a chit chatter, I have a strong urge to shove a ski pole down their throat!

In the particular group that Mermer was describing, macho man was annoying to the others in the group. She had him go down the chute at Snowbird first, so that the others would not have to listen to him. One woman had a fear of narrow terrain. Mermer made sure to have the others give her space when she skied down the chute.

Now that I take class on a regular basis, I realize that it's not only an instructor that can help me push my limits, it's the group. In any given lesson, I may have a different reaction to skiing a particular trail with a particular group. People who constantly wipe out too close to me for comfort tend to agitate me, as well as people who load the chairlift too early and end up siiting where I'm supposed to sit, without having a clue that they should at least move over.

Damn! Ski instructors have a hard job!
post #4 of 4
Originally Posted by Lisamarie
Damn! Ski instructors have a hard job!
Not really, but the things you pointed out do show why good instructors have to be good at skiing and understanding people and their actions/behaviors. Getting people to work together when they are seemingly confrontational personality types can be difficult, but can be done. I often joke about being 1/2 ski intructor, 1/2 psychologist.
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