A team is a dynamic entity and everyone within the team brings their own personality traits and life story. This creates conflict within the team. The question is whether this conflict is good or bad for the team?
Let’s start by defining conflict as different approaches and ideas to rugby. Basically, conflict is the fact that everyone wants to play rugby differently. This may be a different game plan, different technical skills or a different mental attitude. From this very broad definition it is easy to see why there is conflict within a rugby team…everyone has a different opinion.
Now what is good conflict? Good conflict occurs when differences of opinion are discussed. Sometimes compromises are made, sometimes it is an either or choice and sometimes it is best to agree to disagree. In all situations the team grows from these discussions. The different perspectives help the team’s personality develop and often the best way to play develops out of conflict. A good example of this occurred when I was coaching at Stanford. The head coach wanted to teach rugby through playing different games and I wanted to teach the game by developing technical skills before playing rugby. In the end, we developed a coaching structure that combined both. We would use games to teach a specific technical skill and then grow the game. This conflict created a positive solution.
Bad conflict is unspoken and unresolved conflict. The whispers in the locker room, or the disagreement of players with the coaches on selection or game plans. Depending on the source of the conflict, the best way to deal with it is head on. Take the time to go to the parties involved and discuss the conflict. Every situation will be different but if you don’t deal with it, it will become a cancer to the team.
So is conflict bad? Absolutely not. Conflict can help the team grow and develop, but unresolved conflict can destroy a team. The decision to take action lies with the players and coaches.