Confrontation is unavoidable in all levels of sports, and youth is no exception. Maybe one of the trickier areas to navigate is getting all team members on the same side.
Teams can consist of people from different backgrounds that don’t always share the same viewpoints. Some of the most common disruptors of a team working together are differing popularity and socio-economic statuses driving athletes into cliques, and not interacting with others from the opposite clique.
Skill level and work ethic can also separate teammates into groups of those who work hard and/or are talented and those who have less skill, and those who simply do not care and are there because they are forced to be.
And most recently, political views have been a splitter of teammates dividing teams into opposing sides based on which party and beliefs they see as correct.
Youths are especially susceptible to taking on the actions and views of those commonly around or frequently seen in the media. It is not uncommon to see young children acting and speaking similarly to their favorite professional athlete they continuously see in the media or take on the viewpoints of a parent they hear speaking on certain topics. How young people deal with confrontation is subject to how they see major role players in their lives deal with conflict and what those people teach them. This can be parents, teachers, coaches, or anyone they look up to or spend a great deal of time with. It is the job of these major influencers in the young athlete’s life to shape them into leaders and teach them how to deal with confrontation and focus their team for the common goal they all desire: to improve and win.
How To Deal With Conflict Between Teammates
The long-term approach to dealing with division is education from adults who know how to deal with confrontation healthily and interact with people with different lifestyles or viewpoints.
There are many short term approaches to dealing with conflict and division within a team.
Your athlete is allowed to have a viewpoint and express it respectfully. It is essential to help athletes understand there are appropriate times for certain conversations. The answer is NOT to run away from confrontation. Your athlete’s objective should be to voice her opinions rather than try to convince someone else that they are right.
Before your athlete confronts someone, talk through the scenario help them see what they can, and cannot change.
The value of listening is the first step when developing relationships. Nothing can be resolved if the other person doesn’t feel heard.
Teach your athlete to practice empathy. You never know what another person is going through, and this is important to share with your athlete. Maybe the coach is grumpy because he doesn’t feel good, or the other teammate is having trouble at home.
Sometimes as a coach, it is simply not possible for you to make peace among all teammates, given that you may not have a tremendous amount of time with a team. That does not necessarily mean not to try, but it may just not work out. The most that can be done is to educate athletes and focus them on the common goal they share of trying to improve and win whatever the sport is.
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