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Conflict Resolution in Youth Sports: Confrontations

Part II: Eight tips for recipients of confrontations.

Illustration by Jim Phalen, used with permission
Source: Illustration by Jim Phalen, used with permission

In my February 3, 2020 post titled “Conflict Resolution in Youth Sports: Part 1,” the process of conflict resolution was addressed in terms of actions to take when you initiate a confrontation. This post deals with things to do when you are the recipient of a confrontation. As an introduction, some relevant concepts are reviewed.


Conflict is a state in which the action of another person prevents, obstructs, or interferes in some way with your goal or actions. There’s interference with goal-oriented behavior, which creates frustration. Because of this, conflict is usually an emotionally-charged situation.

Conflict should not be viewed as something bad or negative. It’s a natural and unavoidable part of all relationships. Why is conflict so important? Failure to effectively handle it can cause great harm to a relationship. So, the objective is to learn how to manage conflict effectively.

A confrontation is a face-to-face discussion with the individual with whom you are having a conflict. Confrontations are useful for resolving major conflicts and for minor ones as well. But that can’t happen if a confrontation is a heated argument or a hostile exchange. The basic attitude should be “Hey, we’re in this together. Let’s work for the benefit of everyone.”

Objective for Initiators of a Confrontation

When you initiate a confrontation, your goal is to get the other person to examine their actions. The purpose is to achieve a win-win outcome; that is, the needs of both parties are met in a mutually respectful manner. To accomplish this, my February 3, 2020 post covered the “Dos and Don’ts” for initiating confrontations, which are briefly presented below.

Initiating a Confrontation: Things to Do

  1. Speak up when an issue is important to you.
  2. Take time to think about the problem and to clarify your position.
  3. Use your powers of reason.
  4. Speak in “I” language.
  5. Try to understand the other person.
  6. Be tentative.
  7. Proceed gradually.
  8. Try to appreciate the fact that people are different.

Initiating a Confrontation: Things to Avoid

  1. Don’t discuss the problem with everyone else before confronting the other person.
  2. Don’t strike while the iron is hot.
  3. Don’t communicate the solution.
  4. Don’t use “below the belt” tactics.
  5. Don’t stop communicating.
  6. Don’t expect dramatic change to occur from a single confrontation.

Objective for Recipients of a Confrontation

When you are the recipient of a confrontation, you have the same objective as when you initiate a confrontation―to get the other person to examine their actions. The key is to invite the other person to examine the problem as you see it and then come up with a mutually agreeable solution. Here are some recommendations for accomplishing this.

Guidelines for Recipients of a Confrontation

  1. Stay calm. That’s easier said than done. But try to stay under control and remain cool.
  2. Shake hands and smile. This will automatically reduce tension and hostility.
  3. Say something positive. When you say something nice, it will open up the other person to your input. It creates a receptive attitude and sets the stage for positive dialogue.
  4. Ask “what can I do for you.” The best strategy is to be assertive without being pushy.
  5. Be sure you understand the other person’s position. Listen closely and ask questions to obtain clarification, but don’t interrupt the other person.
  6. Try to understand how the other person feels. Don’t become defensive as the other person explains their emotional response to the confrontation. To achieve understanding, follow the next guideline.
  7. Paraphrase the other person’s position and feelings as you understand them. In other words, put it in your own words. For example, “In order to earn more playing time, you said my son needs to improve his defensive skills. It’s nice to know that you enjoy coaching him.”
  8. Describe your position and feelings. “My son is putting in a lot of time and effort, and I feel he should be getting more playing time. I’m frustrated about this, but I'm open to suggestions.” Try to obtain an agreement in defining the problem, and keep the door open for working on the solution.

So, there you have it! With respect to conflict resolution, my February 3, 2020 post and this one (i.e., Parts 1 and 2) provide information about how to effectively manage confrontations. But conflict-resolution skills are not acquired by merely reading about them. You must practice them, analyze your mistakes, and try to do better next time. Best wishes for success!


The Mastery Approach Coaching and Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports videos, accessed through

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