I''m a skater-coach for my team, which means I program, run, coach and organize vet practices.
So far this year, I've received great feedback from the team and most skaters are very happy with the way things are set up and our team game play seems to be thriving. But so does the drama.
I have one teammate the regularly goes behind my back after I explain the drill and changes what I've explained to do; so I have one group that is doing the drill as expressed and another group that is doing something completely different. If I attempt to correct them, she becomes incredibly defensive and snaps at me. Her attitude is so terrible to the point that when we are bouting, she will refuse to give me a high five when I attempt to initiate it or I get nasty looks for trying to encourage her line.
Her attitude is infecting our team and dividing us by making our teammates feel like they have to choose sides. Unfortunately, this has brought us to the worst situation I believe I've ever been involved with in a team environment.
At our last bout, one of our teammates (skater #2) was apparently unhappy with the amount of time she was on the floor playing, so after halftime, she took her phone to the bench and, in her own words when I asked her about it at practice the week after, "I didn't get much playing time. I needed something to occupy my time."
I work very hard to teach my league mates what I've learned from clinics I attended, build them up and give as much positive feedback as possible, while pointing out where they can improve. I work to try to celebrate every skater's successes and point them out to others when they do something awesome out on the floor. But the never ending drama and nasty attitude keeps showing up on the floor.
At this point, the constant tension at practice and our bouts caused by 1-2 skaters is making me and others think about transferring to other leagues or retiring. My only issue is that I'm in a leadership position with this team and I don't want to give up on them mid season. This is my home league, where I started derby and I don't want to leave just because those few skaters have turned the league into drama central.
We're only done with 3 out of the 9 bouts scheduled for the season!
Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to give up on my team, but I also don't want to be treated by crap in front of the whole team by teammates that don't respect me.
Dear, How Do I Change Things,
I have been working on my response to this over the past several days and finally have come to the conclusion that I have too much to say for just one post. For long term positive change there are two components that needs to be addressed. Today, in Part 1, I am going to write about how to address this individual behavior and in Part 2 I am going to discuss how to cultivate a group culture that will foster the kinds of behavior you want to see from your team mates.
I have so many things to say even on just Part 1 and I hope they all come out clear.
This is a sticky situation indeed. The dynamics of this situation are made more complicated due the fact that you are a coach and a skater.
Let's start with skater #1. Is sounds like you have tried to semi-casually address this behavior but it hasn't been received well. At this point you need to have a sit down conversation.
It is super important that you address this behavior right away. There are a number of consequences for letting undesirable behavior go unchecked. If we don't say something is 'not OK' then we are saying that it is 'OK'. From their perceptive if they have been doing something for a long time and no one has said anything about it and then it's brought up, it can feel out of the blue. And that's pretty unfair to them. The other big danger is that the longer the behavior continues to more other people are getting the message that it's OK. You run the risk of this turning from the undesired behavior of one individual to a full-blown group culture.
First, isolate the conversation. Don't have it during a practice or in front of other people. Let skater #1 know that you would really like to talk with her about some things that are happening during practice and games so that you two are on the same page and can be good team mates.
If you don't think the conversation will be successful between just the two of you, hopefully your league has some sort of conflict resolution system in place that offers mediation. If you league does not have anyone who is designated to assist in conflict resolution then ask a league mate who is neutral, trusted by both you and skater #1 and has good communication skills to help mediate the conversation. We find that if you need to constructively confront someone on their behavior and they are already feeling attacked, or triggered by you, it can be really helpful to have a third party to make sure both of you are following the ground rules of the conversation, call a 'time-out' if anyone gets off topics and use reflective listening and rephrasing to facilitate understanding.
Another option is to have your co-coach (assuming you have one) speak with skater #1 about the expectations of behavior at practice and identify how her current behavior isn't meeting the expectations. If the two of them can come to an agreement about what her behavior at practice will look like moving forward then the three of you can have a mini-meeting afterwards where they summarize what they came up with. The important part of this meeting is that skater #1 makes a commitment to you about what their actions at practice will look like moving forward.
It's really important that at the end of the conversation Skater #1 also has some appropriate ways to give you feedback if she doesn't think the drills you are leading are the most appropriate or if she prefers a different kind of motivation or support during games. So, make sure you leave an open door of communication with her. Let her know that while the league expects everyone act respectfully towards each other that you are also interested in hearing her feedback and her concerns. And even if you don't implement the specific suggestions she brings to you, you think that the training committee is richer for having more perspectives and ideas to consider. And when you say these things, you need to really mean them.
Now, here are some tips on how to actually confront the behavior. First, check out this blog entry . The other tip I have for you is to frame it in terms of what 'we' expect from our team mates and what is needed for the overall good of the team. That way you are taking it out of a claim of a personal attack and putting into the frame work of her being a positive team mate.
"It is important for our team's success to be cohesive during game play. This will only happen if we are practicing drills in the same way. If any of us are using eye-rolling, or other non-verbals that are dismissive of another team mate, that will only break down our positive communication on and off the track"
Instead of this:
"It undermine my authority as coach when you tell your line to practice a drill differently from what I have instructed. Refusing to give me a high five is a blatant act of disrespect."
Now, both of those statements are true. But one of them is more confrontational land makes it about how she needs to respect you and the other is about what you need from her to be the best team mate she will be. And the later is much more likely to be received well.
One important thing for you going into this.
You need to check in with yourself and be really clear about what your intention is regarding addressing this. What is your goal? Do you want skater #1 to live up to certain behavior expectations that the team has of everyone? Or are you feeling hurt by her actions and you want her to apologize?
One thing that sometimes happens to those of us in leadership positions is that if someone in the group acts in a way that we find to be disrespectful it hurts us on a personal level. As a leader, especially as a volunteer, we build relationships with our constituents. We are putting a lot of ourselves out there and a lot of work into the group to be successful. So when someone behaves in a way that we find disrespectful it can hurt on a personal level. Owning your own feelings. Recognizing that when other people's actions trigger a feeling in ourselves, we are still responsible for our own feelings. So, when confronting Skater #1 on her actions sharing how you feel, as a member of the team and as a coach, when she behaves that way may be appropriate. But don't go into it expecting or hoping for her to fix your feelings. Be ready to own them and let it go if she isn't willing or able to meet you there. When you address her actions as you would like to see them moving forward do it from a more clinical perspective. Identify the specific behaviors that will contribute to team cohesion as opposed to break it down. Instead of looking to her to make amends with you for your hurt feelings, look for commitments of positive future behavior. You are looking for agreements specifically around behaviors, not feelings. Ideally, you and Skater #1 will move past this situation and develop a coach/skater and skater/skater relationship full of mutual respect and interdependence. And from that a friendlier relationship might grow. But, if you have an deep or hidden desires for this skater to feel bad for the way she has treated you, to feel a greater respect for you as a coach or to like you more as a skater/person after the conversation... let them go.
Now, after you two have made agreements about specifically what behaviors you expect from each other that reflect respect, you need to know how to bring it up if/when there is another occurrence of the negative behavior.
First, address it RIGHT AWAY.
This is so important. If you think that she may be triggered by you, then send the other coach over to her line to remind her of what the drill is. In between drills, or right after practice pull her aside and let her know you are checking in because the agreements have been broken. Ask her if there is anything you can do to help her live up to the agreements and invite her to participate in the next drill, or the next practice if she can refocus and demonstrate the behaviors the two of you agreed upon.
Also, and this is SUPER IMPORTANT, you need to let Skater #1 know when you see her doing the things told you she would do. You need to recognize them and thank her for following through with her agreements and let her know that it means a lot to you that she is willing to work on her skills as a good league mate. Since you two don't have a deep personal relationship, don't make a giant deal out of it, but definitely let her know you see it.
For Skater #2 it sounds like so far it's only been one incident and so you don't need to have the same kind of conversation you do with Skater #1. First, if something like this happens again with Skater #2 or anyone else, it needs to be addressed immediately. If you are skating and therefore cannot speak with her on the bench, get the other coach to do it. If that is not possible, pull her aside at half time or right after the game. Again, do this in private. People tend to get extra defensive if they are being confronted in front of others.
Remind her of what the expectations are of skaters who are on the bench. Hopefully your team has already set up clear expectations (more on that in Part 2). Reiterate what criteria the coaches choose to put people out on the track (more in Part 2) and point out the reasons she wasn't being played as frequently during that game. Ask her what you can do to help her improve on the components she is lacking to get more play time. Most importantly, let her know that when she pulls her self phone out on the bench she is sending a very clear message to her team that she is not invested in them, she does not support them. Make it clear to her that whether she is on the track, on the bench or in the bleachers she is a member of the team and needs to behave as such. When skaters choose to let their ego get in the way of being team-focused it is damaging to everyone. What her team mates on the track see is an individual who is upset that they don't think they are getting what they deserve. What they should be seeing is their sister (or brother) skater cheering them on, looking for compliments and feedback to give them when they get off the track and who is still invested in the team's success.
Here's a great blog that was posted the other day about what makes a good bench.
In Part 2 I will talk about how to establish some group norms that will help support the behavior you want to see with both Skater #1 and #2 and will also help foster a culture that will prevent these sorts of negative attitudes and behaviors. So keep your eye out.
*edited May 28th after some great feedback in Facebook*