The ability to resolve conflict can make or break a team. I've seen it unfold as a teammate. I've heard about it from friends. I've watched it happen as a fan on the sideline. In a sinful world, conflict is inevitable and can be a healthy part of working through issues collaboratively. It's when conflict is ignored or fed by gossip that team relationships turn toxic. Ignoring a problem causes feelings to fester and grow disproportionately to the situation. A minor grievance or misunderstanding between two teammates, unresolved, can grow to a team-wide dispute where players are forced to choose sides. Gossip, a form of social bullying, spreads like wildfire by mouth or online. Sometimes teammates are not able to keep their feelings bottled up inside and they come tumbling out in an emotionally-charged "vent session." It is so important that conflict not be suppressed. Suppressed conflict will often rear its ugly head in key pressure-packed moments. Matthew 18:15-17 details biblical conflict resolution by saying, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church." However, before going to confront someone, it's always important to pray and ask, is this something that I can let go of on my own. Confronting someone can cause a ripple of contention and if the situation can go away without it, that might be the best course of action.
Center one's mindset, first, around being part of a group of Christian student-athletes, second, around being on a team, and third, around oneself. In other words, allow the wisdom gained in relationship with Christ to direct the group's approach. Consider how each individual situation impacts the team overall. Finally, acknowledge personal feelings. When we follow His direction, the Lord blesses us with greater understanding and sometimes amazing changes and growth as a team and as individuals. Don't hesitate to seek the counsel of a coach, parent, or mentor. They want to help and are often able to offer firsthand experience.
Go into each season with an open heart towards teammates, despite past events. As Christian student-athletes, make a pact not to gossip with each other or with friends, and never on social media. It can be very difficult, but this commitment really helps to avoid unnecessary drama. Finally, remember that avoidance of conflict is what can derail an otherwise great season. Silent divisions will begin to form and resentment will take hold. Always remember to prayerfully seek wisdom and guidance both from the Lord and from trusted adults. Doing this will encourage all involved to grow together as a team that is all for Him.
- Grace Williamson, '19