It can be hard to work with people, and as much as we try, sometimes you are partnered up with someone you just cannot get along with. Being able to work as a team is a skill that many adults struggle with in their daily lives, especially in the workplace. As a cheer coach, you know that working with a group of teenagers means that conflict is inevitable. Do you remember being a teenager? It sucked! All those hormones, emotions, and the constant pressure to fit in makes even the simplest tasks challenging. As a coach, you know problems will arise, so here are some tips to help you be prepared to cross that bridge when you come to it.

1. Strike first.
Even before conflict arises, take charge, and let your team know drama will not be tolerated. If you make it clear from the start that that type of behavior won’t fly on your team, it holds your cheerleaders accountable. Some gyms have fun signs, saying “leave your bags, and your drama at the door.” You can make it fun, but from the start, you need to make it clear to your team that certain behaviors are not acceptable or allowed in the gym. In the end, conflict will only affect the team as a whole–a team that works together, wins together.

2. Nip it in the bud.
Conflict usually starts between two people when they disagree on something, but if you let it get out of control, more people get involved: they start taking sides, and you will eventually have a very unhappy team who cannot work together. It is easier to resolve a situation when it first arises instead of letting it grow. Talk to both cheerleaders to see what the issue is–most times, the conflict is a simple disagreement, or misunderstanding! Especially with teenagers, rumors can be a big problem. Have your cheerleaders talk it out, and your cheerleaders might find some common ground, or even a simple solution.

3. Call in the captain. Sometimes, your cheerleaders might have a situation that they don’t feel comfortable talking to the coach about. That’s when you enlist help from your team captain. It is true–people would rather talk to someone their own age about an issue. You picked your team captain because they showed leadership skills; let them help with conflict resolution, and maybe that’s all it takes for your cheerleaders to squash their beef.

4. Encourage team building.
Try and build a strong team that works together. When you start hearing some potential grumblings or conflict, set aside a practice for just for the sake of team building. There are a bunch of games and exercises online you can turn to, too! You can host a day with your team at a theme park in your area, or another activity where your cheerleaders get out and have fun together. If you have access to a gym, you can put together a lock-in or a slumber party for you team, so they can hang out and bond.

Cheerleading is a team sport, and requires a lot of trust. With any team, there are going to be disagreements, but as long as you act quickly to solve the issue, your team should work in harmony.  As the coach, you know what works best for your team, and not all cheerleaders are the same. Some resolutions may work for one cheerleader, and not for another. Cheerleading requires a lot of trust, and a team that does not trust each other can cause injury. Teamwork makes the dream work, and the only way a team can win is if they work together. Sometimes, having a common goal is the best way to get a team to work together!

What else can cheer coaches do to resolve team conflicts? What worked for your team? Share your conflict resolution tips in the comments!