How do you handle conflict on your sports team? How do you keep it from spiraling into a large, public dispute? How do you keep conflict from destroying a season? What support is available for an immediate problem? How can you minimize the downside of your sports conflict situations and maximize the upside? How can you ensure issues are resolved with the least amount of negative impact on your team relationships? How can you mitigate risk and optimize performance? How is sports conflict coaching valuable to your sports team or organization?
Conflict Management Is Important
Conflict management is a key competency area with skills that are difficult to master in the abstract or through reading and classroom alone. Coaches, Administrators, Team Captains, Athletes, and others learn best when in a situation that requires some guidance and support from a conflict management expert.
Key to a Healthy Team
Effective conflict management is key to a constructive locker room culture. Serious conflicts can cost your team in terms of performance on and off the field. It can also open the door to unnecessary escalations that, at their worst, involve legal action, investigations, terminations and departures, and lost seasons and careers.
Sports Conflict Coaching is Effective
Sports conflict coaching is effective. In essence, it is training for one and provides a better way to understand conflict and how to effectively manage it. Most importantly, it allows focus to remain on critical activities necessary to prepare to perform optimally within the sport itself. By addressing key sources of negative stress, energy is preserved for the demands of the sport itself.
Team process consultation consists of activities designed to increase team awareness and understanding, so that the team or organization can take steps to improve the way that its members work together.
Observation and Assessment
The consultant observes and assesses the interactions between members of the team or organization in the normal flow of practices, meetings, and games. The consultant then provides feedback to members of the organization or team to help them in resolving team conflict and learning to identify the attitudes and behaviors that help or hinder the team’s success, and to take steps to improve the way the team functions.
Each successful sports team has to apply specific team roles for each member of the team, ideally those that are aligned with individual competencies. Optimizing performance is possible only when the team is well balanced by having a:
- Captain– to communicate and bridge the team members with coaches, and sometimes make tactical decisions on behalf of the coach.
- Leader – to lead the team to reach a goal by identifying and communicating strategies and leading by personal example. This role is important during critical moments of the competition or even during practice, in order to achieve specific goals outlined by the coach.
- Superstar – to do something that seems impossible or to shine. A Super Star may have concern for the team but their primary focus is on themselves and their individual performance and recognition. Superstars may also set standards, which motivate those less talented to excel further. Many healthy teams have no more than one person of this caliber as team dynamics become more complicated and performance can suffer with too many.
- Team Members – to execute directions from the captain and the leader, and to support the Super Star in achieving individual results and hereby improve team performance.
Assignment of team roles must consider the character of individual athletes (e.g. one person cannot be a Team Member and a Super Star simultaneously because these roles require a completely different type of character). It is important for athletes and the coaches to understand their natural predisposition to perform in the right role. Trying to change the team’s natural division of roles (or working against character) creates conflict and chaos that lead to team or individual frustration and consequently performance may be affected.
It is important for a team to have complementary characters where the weaknesses of some individuals are offset by the strengths of others. For example, when a coach wants to set up a defence line, he may want to choose players with high tolerance as a character trait, because they will easily more easily accept the tactic and strategy of the opponent and develop a counter strategy, which may help the team to win the game. Low tolerance players are more inclined to reject the other team’s strategy rather than understand it.
The most successful tactics and strategies are those applied based on the athlete’s character strengths in the case of individual sports, and those based on the team members’ complementary strengths for team sports.
Tools for Process Consultation include:
- DISC Assessment
- Sports Competency Matrices
- Coaching & Leadership Assessment
- Team Accountability Model
- Sports Conflict Observation Tools (SCOTs)™
- Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI)
- Team Culture Assessment
- Communication Patter Observation
- Team Norms Observation and Assessment