Playing Peacekeeper: Tips For Resolving Conflict Between Players

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If you are a coach who is responsible for a team of young players, then you already know that conflicts will come up on occasion and are an unavoidable part of any sport. The way that you manage these conflicts will determine the long-term success or failure of the team, so the methods that you use in your approach are vital.
Even though convincing your players to put their differences behind them won’t always be easy, keeping a few tips and a plan in mind will take you far.

Educate Your Team

When your mission is to help your team to avoid conflict and to work together, educating them about conflict and the impact that it can have on the team and its success is a good place to start. You can let everyone on the team know that disagreements can be expected and that they must strive to find a middle ground.

To get the best possible results, help your team learn to see their problems from the perspective of another person. Simply making your team aware of possible conflicts and showing them how to understand each other  will go a long way toward keeping them on the same page.

Encourage Open Communication

For team members to work well together, they will need to feel comfortable enough to speak openly with each other. Many conflicts result from miscommunication, and discovering healthy ways to voice their needs can create unity among your team members.

For example, people won’t always speak up when something upsets them, but this reluctance can open the door for resentment and bitterness to build. When you notice tension among your team, talk with them to get a thorough understanding of the issue, encouraging them to speak with each other about their concerns.

Tell Your Team to Take a Break

When emotions are high, logic can easily go out the window, and continuing the discussion at this time can make matters much worse than they need to be. People will often see the conflict with enhanced objectivity after taking some time to remove themselves from the situation, which enables the emotions to subside.

If a disagreement is getting out of hand, tell your team to drop the issue and to take some time to relax. The amount of time that this process will take will depend on the players, the nature of the disagreement and the level of emotions that are involved. Once they return to the issue, your players will likely resolve the conflict without much trouble.

Ask Your Team to Focus on a Common Goal

If your team happens to encounter a major conflict, it will be hard for them to keep focused on the long-term goal of the team. This lack of focus can cause people to start viewing members of their team as enemies.

If you find yourself facing a similar problem, sit everyone down together to remind them that they are all working toward the same goal. Even though they won’t always agree on everything, they are still on the same side, and they need to keep this fact at the front of their minds at all times.

Demonstrate the Value of Respect

Teaching your team to respect each other when things are not going as planned is a powerful step in conflict resolution. To get the most from this tip, inspire your team to keep an eye on the big picture.

Rather than resorting to petty insults, show them how to debate and disagree with each other in a respectful way. This step can be challenging at times, but viewing every conflict as something to be solved together can help you and your team to reduce the stress.
No matter how well your team might get along, they will face conflicts from time to time that will put their ability to work together to the test. Young athletes won’t always have the tools to manage the conflicts in a healthy way, so you will need to become a peacekeeper to show everyone what it takes to get along and to handle problems in a constructive way.
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Photo: CC 2.0 / woodleywonderworks

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