Whether your athletes are shouting at each other, not speaking at all, or fighting on the field, conflict is a natural part of any team dynamic. But as a coach, you can take steps to make sure that when conflicts do arise, there are systems in place to both solve them and make the team stronger. Here, Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, shares some of her favorite tools to manage conflict within a team.
“It’s important to understand that conflict is not bad,” says Kyba. “Conflict is what helps teams grow. If you show me a team that hasn’t been through conflict, they will be a team that doesn’t take risks. They’re a team that tiptoes around each other because they don’t want to stir things up or address issues.”
Even if your team doesn’t voice conflict, it’s inevitable. If a team is so conditioned to pretend conflict doesn’t exist, there’s a problem in communication and the team will ultimately suffer. Encourage your team members to be comfortable voicing concerns and issues.
“When teams have systems in place to anticipate, to recognize, and to work through conflict, it’s easier to move through small and large conflicts as they arise,” says Kyba. “”I think it’s important for all parties to have a conversation – at the beginning – about conflict and know that it’s a typical thing that happens on every team. Explain that conflict helps teams grow and isn’t something to be afraid of. That helps athletes develop trust, and when they have trust, they can take risks and perform better.”
She recommends holding this team meeting early in the year for athletes and discussing not just how to handle conflict amongst themselves, but also when a coach should be involved. A similar meeting between the coach and parents will also help avoid parent/child versus coach/team problems.