Time does not heal: communicating better in team sports
Team sports ask for more than just individual contributions of each player’s skills and talents. It requires collaborative effort and contribution to both individual and team goals; simply put, teamwork. Regardless of sport, at the heart of team sports is: people, and managing the relationships between them. A team would unlikely see the peak of its success even with the best strategies and individual players if the interpersonal relationships of these players are not well-managed.
‘Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.’ - Mike Krzyzewski
Research shows that among the different reasons for team under-performance, interpersonal problems were among the top reasons for prolonged team under-performance. It is not surprising where there are people working in collaboration, interpersonal problems are bound to surface. Having said that, interpersonal issues are not the cause of breakdown in teamwork, but rather how we deal with them. Unlike the popular saying, silence is not golden, especially in thriving sports teams. Effective communication is needed to manage interpersonal conflict. Dealing with conflicts through effective communication can, in fact, improve teamwork and increase performance. It allows the team to support each other, and complement their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.
This question then arises, ‘How do we communicate effectively?’
There are three things we can do to adopt effective communication when interpersonal conflicts arise:
1. Dealing with conflict as soon as it happens
While it is important that the parties involved are not in the spur of the moment, it is equally important that conflicts are dealt with as soon as possible. In team sports, players do not only rely on each other during game times but also during training sessions. Putting the problem aside only leaves room for escalation of the problem. This hinders effective teamwork and in serious circumstances, causes collective team under-performance. Therefore, a swift intervention when the situation cooled down can be efficient in avoiding things swept under the carpet.
2. Finding a neutral mediator
If conflict is between a few players in the team, it would be helpful to include a neutral mediator when communicating the conflict. Mediators can help to facilitate the conversation, ask questions and help keep the conversation fitted for the purpose of communicating about a conflict.
3. Communicating through a structured session
Structure is important in conversing about conflict, especially if the conflict involves the team as a whole. Structured sessions can ensure that the problem is addressed, and the goal of ‘talking it out’ is met. The above tip of a mediator helps in this situation.
4. Be open and honest
This is easier said than done. However, effective communication cannot be achieved if the problem is not addressed openly. Not only does beating around the bush defeat the purpose of communicating, it also provides more grounds for misunderstanding. The key to effective communication is being open and honest about the conflict, and those do not conflict with being kind and careful with the type of words we use when communicating.
It is important to communicate effectively in team sports. It may be hard to cultivate this in a team immediately, but we can play our part in the team to be effective communicators (even be the mediators), to facilitate healthy communication within the team. If you think your team can work on better communication, have a conversation with us on your challenges, and we are keen to work with you (and your team) to create a better flow of communication and enhance your experience in your team performance!