When athletes on your team are having disagreements, as a coach it’s natural to want to jump in and solve the conflict for them. But while you can help make athletes more ethical, you shouldn’t make decisions for them — you’d actually doing them a disservice by helping them avoid conflict.
Before you can teach how to resolve disagreements, it’s important to understand that conflict and bullying are different things. Conflict is a disagreement where both sides can express their views, while bullying is a negative behavior in which one person has power over another.
Here’s how you can facilitate disagreements amongst teammates to keep conflict from turning into bullying.
Establish a conflict policy early
As your season begins, sit down with the team and create a conflict plan or policy: A set of rules and recommendations for how teammates can best deal with conflicts amongst themselves. This might include a journaling exercise, bringing conflicts to you as the coach before hashing them out with a teammate, or setting a weekly team meeting where your athletes can address problems they’re having.