Miracle Media Response

Miracle Movie Poster several hockey players on ice
Miracle is a movie based on the true story of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team and their journey to defeating the Soviet Union and eventually winning the gold medal. The story is centered around the political unrest from the tensions of the Cold War and the weight that the young men on the team were carrying in order to unite the country in a time of stress. The film features several forms of sports psychology throughout that ultimately leads to helping the team succeed. These features include, but are not limited to, different types of aggression, leadership, and increased levels of team cohesion.

The first feature of aggression was introduced to the movie during training camp when Jack O’Callahan and Rob McClanahan dropped their gloves in an intra-squad fight after O’Callahan blind-sided his teammate. This is an example of physical aggression rather than verbal, as the two exchanged blows with the intention to harm one another. More specifically, this scene is a good example of hostile aggression rather than instrumental aggression. Hostile aggression is when someone uses physical aggression with the intention to harm them for a specific reason while instrumental aggression is aggression used in order to obtain something, such as winning the game. O’Callahan exemplifies hostile aggression in this case as it was within the boundaries of his own team so there was no value in hurting his teammate and he also wanted payback from a college playoff game so he used his anger as a motive to harm McClanahan.

The next feature of sports psychology seen in Miracle is the several features of leadership that Herb Brooks uses. In general, Herb Brooks uses his leadership qualities as head coach in order to influence the team and work for a common goal. Throughout the movie, Brooks uses the model of coaching efficacy with features including motivation, game strategy, technique, and character building in order to create a winning culture. For example, Herb uses motivation in the iconic pre-game speech scene before the semi-final game against the Soviets in order to motivate his players to play the greatest they have ever played that night. Next he makes the critical game strategy to start Jim Craig rather than his trusted goalie from his college team, because he believes Craig will play the best against their opponents. Brooks uses techniques in order to grow his player’s hockey abilities in the scene after they lost to in an exhibition game and they were instructed to skate suicides for long after the game, teaching them the traits of being a resilient player. Lastly, Herb instills character building within players on the team with the creation of holding a level of respect for each other and for him.

One last feature of sports psychology featured in Miracle is the creation of team cohesion throughout. Cohesion in general is the idea in which members of a team or group stick together in the pursuit of achieving a common goal. The linear model of cohesion is specifically displayed in the film as the team goes through the four stages of cohesion as they develop their goals, including forming, storming, norming, and performing. At first, the movie shows the forming stage, in which the team comes together to training camp from many different backgrounds, many of which with poor pre-existing relationships (Minnesota vs Boston hockey rivalries). Next in the storming stage, the team manages their inner-conflicts first with outward aggression as displayed in the O’Callahan fight and later through conversations with one another both inside and outside the locker room in order to get over their pasts, and focus on the future. In the norming stage, the group works on strategies of working together which is seen through team bonding activities like the Christmas party and mixing up the lines, forcing relationships to turn positive by playing directly with one another. Lastly, the performing stage portrayed the team members pulling together in the right direction is finally displayed with the depiction of the championship level run that the US hockey team went on, ultimately winning gold and clearly having a good time doing it together. Overall, Miracle gives a great look at how different features of sports psychology have been used at the highest level in the Olympics, as well as 40 years ago.

Chad Simons