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Avoiding Assumptions: How to Minimize Conflict Arising from Assumptions


We all make assumptions throughout the day—it's part of human nature. But young athletes sometimes make judgements based on assumptions that may or may not be true, and these misguided assumptions can hurt a team's dynamic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated assumption-making in every arena, and young people are particularly vulnerable as school and sports practices have shifted to remote models.

Here, Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, explains how assumptions can be dangerous and how an athlete interaction, when left unchecked, can go from a minor incident during a game to a major problem for a team.

The Circle of Inference

According to Kyba, the Circle of Inference explains how we interpret information and actions based on assumptions to form beliefs that drive our actions. Conflict arises when athletes misinterpret another person’s motives based on their own perception of the facts.

Below, Kyba walks through an example of how a missed opportunity for a pass in a soccer game could lead to a player quitting the team because he feels like his teammates all dislike him. It might sound overly dramatic to a coach or parent, but to a young athlete who's basing his actions on selected facts with his underlying assumptions and beliefs, it's a very real scenario.

The Action: During a soccer game, Joe is running up the midfield, open, and calls to Andy to pass him the ball. Instead, Andy passes the ball to Tim.

"Now, Joe is making a whole bunch of assumptions about why Andy made that pass choice," Kyba explains. "He isn't asking if Andy passed to Tim because there was actually a defender standing behind him, or because Tim was in a better passing position, or if Andy didn't hear him call out. Joe is seeing Andy not pass him the ball through his own lens of assumptions and beliefs." What we're looking at now is Joe's version of events, in order to see how dangerous assumptions can be.

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Sportsmanship Parent TrueSport