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3 Coaching Strategies to Manage Ongoing Rivalries

By TrueSport, 04/09/20, 8:30AM CDT

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In some team dynamics, there are going to be unavoidable rivalries: teammates will struggle for starting spots, personalities will clash over leadership responsibilities, and issues will arise with other teams. Conflict is normal and not always a problem on its own, but ongoing rivalries can slowly poison a team. Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, has seen teams go through rough patches navigating these types of situations.

Here’s how Kyba recommends coaches put a stop to rivalries early.

Set standards early in the season

Jealousy within the team can start from simple, easy-to-avoid misunderstandings. Inter-team rivalries tend to stem from competitive urges and athletes feeling as though they’re being unfairly treated. As a coach, you can set the team guidelines and rules of play early in the season to minimize some of these issues.

“Team guidelines help if there is some sort of conflict or rivalry between teammates,” says Kyba. “Having a system in place where they’re clear on what the expectations around behavior are, and that everyone’s bought into, gives players a sense of ownership and understanding.”

Check in with your team by scheduling short meetings throughout the season to ensure that there aren’t lingering undercurrents of problematic jealousy or rivalry.

Be transparent

Discuss how players can get into the starting lineup, expectations for how practices are run, and explain the metrics that are important to you as a coach.

“If a coach is really clear about how they’re making decisions, that takes away the opportunity to make assumptions, which can lead to rivalries,” Kyba adds. “One things I’ve noticed that leads to the rivalries is that coaches don’t meet with athletes ahead of time to talk about how they’re making decisions. In team sports, like soccer, basketball, or volleyball, oftentimes a coach will announce the starting lineup right before a game. And then players are left to have to process everything on the spot rather than having that team meeting a few days ahead of time to discuss the lineup and how the selection was made.”

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TrueSport® is a grassroots movement born and powered by the experience and values of USADA–the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The TrueSport® mission is simple and bold: to change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build the life skills and core values for lasting success on and off the field.

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