How To Be A More Effective Leader Solving Conflicts In 8 Steps

Working with people involves the appearance of conflicts. When you train a football team you're interacting with people and in this relationship conflicts may occur.

What are the conflicts in sports? Why do they arise? How do you prevent them from appearing? I will explain everything you need to know about conflicts between players and between players and coaching staff, so that when they pop up you'll be more relaxed and prepared to handle them.

How to detect them? What to do when they happen? Should we let them pass? Can anything be done? I'll explain the steps for the detection and resolution of conflicts on your football team.


The first thing you have to know is that conflicts are normal, we must confront them and are an opportunity to improve and progress in relations with your players. To know how to adequately solve them will leave you better positioned as a leader of your team.

Definition of conflict in sport.

Before continuing speaking about conflict, I will define it and delimit it with reference to the environment in which we work. The conflict is a situation where both parties have needs, interests or different views, while sharing a common goal. The most common happens with players who do not play the weekend. You as a coach didn't summon them and they want to play. Another example is when part of the group wants to have more fun trainings and the other part wants more intensity (usually the coach).

How to avoid conflict? What to do in order for it not to show up?

The truth is that conflicts are part of human nature and in the end, one way or another they will happen. Avoiding them is almost impossible, but we can lay a foundation so that they become easier to solve when they arise.

How to detect the conflict?

Before it becomes clear from the comments, attitude and way of working, we can look at a couple of points: nonverbal communication and the rumour mill (the "science" of rumours). Gestures, glances players become different when something is cooking. Through your assistants and / or captains, you can also get information on the status of the players and find out if something is wrong with the whole group or part of it.

What to do when conflict arises?

The first thing is to be prepared; you know that it is inevitable and should be solved as soon as possible and effectively. For this I recommend you follow a few steps. To facilitate the explanation of the topic I will present a fictional example of conflict: part of the players express that the training sessions are very long (many pauses, light intensity, etc ...) and become boring.

1. Meeting to resolve the conflict: Gather the parties involved in the conflict in a "quiet" place where you might be able to express yourself with freedom and in good time. For example, on Monday after the active recovery session. It would be nice to have a blackboard at hand. Start by thanking the attendance at the meeting (including professionals) and write on the board the interests and objectives in common that the parties have.


2. Delimitation of conflict:

Let the parts express themselves, but only focusing on the conflict, not opinions, valuations, tastes. Show yourself honest and open to listen, let them talk all they need, respects your turn to speak even if what they say seems ridiculous or absurd. Continuing the example, "the sessions are too long and boring", "we want to have fun" "We can't lose the whole morning training in here" "when we are not moving we get chilled" "the explanations of the exercises are too long" "the activity gets interrupted a lot in order to correct ", etc... Write down the key words on the board and synthesizes all ideas. Once everyone has spoken, ask the group if we all agree or disagree with the definition of the problem. Acknowledge the participation of everybody.

If the conflict is between parts of the group and you're the mediator, you have to let both parties to express themselves equally.


3. Show yourself in agreement and explain your ideas. Recognize the part of reason they have, "you're right, I too think the training sessions are too long and I would like to do something about it." Showcase your arguments, I'm sure there's logic behind what you're doing, now is the time to explain to the group why. Express yourself with respect, giving your reasoning.

4. Seek to link your ideas in common: "sessions are longer than planned because I don't see that the proposed objectives are being achieved", "we stop the activities because we keep making the same mistakes every time", "if we are to achieve the proposed objectives we have to improve the concepts we are developing in training sessions", "sessions will be more intense, but shorter and you'll have more fun when we see that the activities are done without making the same mistakes." Ask them if they agree with the reasoning exposed.

5. Negotiation. Once the positions are set, it's time to set intermediate points (win - win). You need to be flexible in what you can, but stay unbending in what is immovable (training objectives, etc ...) You are the leader, you must have prepared agreements. To be most effective, you can ask them and make them getting the answers: "As you think we could do to reduce the total time of the session" "Making shorter explanations and stopping fewer times activities" How could we do to that explanations were shorter? Any idea how you could know he activities we are going to do before start? when and how? ""We could read with more attention the training routine you give us in the locker room every day and in this way we'll know besides the Dickies we have to wear everything else related to the training session: Day objective, content, exercises, rules, etc... in this way we wouldn't need get an explanation before each activity because we would already know it."

"How could we reduce the number and downtime to correct the position for example?" "In addition to reading and clearly understanding the content of the training session we have to memorize the roles and functions of each person during activities. It would greatly help us if the coach could put together with each description of the activities, the drawings of the different positions and variables".

If the problem of the conflict could not be negotiable (times, who will play on game day, training objectives, etc...) you must explain them why it's not possible to give in "there are no fields available at other times," "following the criteria exposed and as head of the group, I choose who plays every game," etc... and make your decision, as a group leader you are responsible for choosing.

6. Agreements and actions. Redefine the conflict, expose resolutions and specify the consequences of breach of resolutions.

Definition of conflict: The training sessions are longer than we all want because of the time spent on explanations prior to activities and error correction. In turn, activities last longer than planned because not being assimilated properly and the expected objectives are not acquired.


• Designing sessions with time limit. As we agreed the coaching staff is committed to designing working sessions of no more than 90 minutes.

• Exhibition of the menu. The coaching staff is committed to creating the "menu" of each workout with all the detailed information (including photos, drawings and/or videos) in the locker room before starting.

• Assimilating the menu. Players will be responsible for reading the menu and assimilating information: session structure, activities, roles, functions, rules, etc ...

Consequences for breach of resolutions:

• If players failed in their part:

  • Assimilate the information prior to start training, remember instructions, variants...
  • Low intensity or many errors at training because of lack of attention and concentration.

If the group fails:

The activities may be extended until the coaching staff see that objectives are achieved. For some players:

Activities may also be prolonged until the coaching staff see that objectives are achieved, but these players must also do extra work and / or countervailing duty:

  • Staying at the end of training for other related activities that reinforce the goals you are working.
    • Make a compensatory work to help improve their attention.
    • Make a compensatory activity to help the team: collect material ...
  • If this situation is repeated over time, we will re-establish a new meeting to review the agreements and the consequences.

7. Reinforces positive behaviours and "punish" the negative ones. During the first session of training is very important to pay special attention to the players that are complying with what was agreed and for you to publicly reinforce it with positive messages "this group here did very well, I see that you have read and perfectly remember the activity instructions, good job, keep it up." "This intensity is very good, it shows that you have all of our attention on the work and also to understand the activity you are perfectly assimilating it." After a session of positive reinforcement, it is desirable that, if they have been producing and continue to repeat, take measures to stop unwanted behaviours: for lack of intensity, for lack of attention or for not knowing what to do... Talk to these players privately and ask them what happens, if they understand the agreements, if they want to respect them, etc. and remind them the consequences of behaviour.

8. See that all parties comply with the agreement and, if not, perform the agreed consequences.


As we have seen, conflicts in the groups of people are normal, part of the group dynamic and as coach, you have an obligation to solve them. Also you'll improve your position as a leading force and increasing your credibility with your players. At the same time the group will be more united and cohesive once the conflict is resolved.

It is good to recognize them to tackle them as soon as possible. You can use your coaching staff and your captains to be more informed about what happens in the locker room.

When conflict arises, it is necessary to act calmly and cunning, though mostly with honesty and desire to act on what is causing the malaise and provoking conflict.

The 8 steps you can take are: Meeting to resolve the conflict; underlying the conflict; act in agreement and explain your ideas; bargaining, agreements and actions; put into practice; Reinforcement of positive behaviours; and enforcement of agreements and execution of the consequences for breach of agreed resolutions.

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