Dealing with Upsets and Breakdowns on USTA Teams

One of the most difficult situations faced by Ladies League Captains is dealing with players who are upset.  I know it’s a rare situation yet we still need to address it!

Despite all of our best efforts on the front end of the season, USTA teams will inevitably deal with upsets and breakdowns or as Malcolm Gladwell, author of the Tipping Point, like to call it, “Broken Windows.”

Any Team Culture begins to degrade the moment “broken windows” are not repaired.

Gladwell’s research cited criminologists who found that “crime is the inevitable result of disorder.”  If a window is broken and left un-repaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares, and no one is in charge.  Soon, more windows will be broken, and the epidemic of crime takes off.

The same is likely to happen on your USTA team.  If someone crosses the line and it does not get addressed, team culture will begin to breakdown.  You – team captain – must immediately fix any “broken windows,” You want to make sure that when any player behaves in ways that are not acceptable to the team culture, someone intervenes and says, in effect, ‘That’s not okay.  That’s not the way WE do things HERE.’

Things happen in sport and in life.  Lines get crossed and what’s truly important is what happens next.  Does the “window get repaired”?

What happens when somebody breaks a window and causes an upset on the team?  Well, first off, remember that upset people are basically “insane” at the time of the upset.  This is not a good time to intervene. Give them a little bit of time to be upset. The more people are pushed to not be upset, the more upset they will become!  So give them a little time to chill out.

After the “chill” period, you need to call them on it.  When someone breaks the team culture, it’s up to someone on the team or the whole team to pull that person aside and say, “We agreed on X.  I’m calling you on it right now. We are not going to do that here.”

All the work you do on the Front End is for naught unless folks are willing to “Call It”.   More than likely in the beginning it will be left up to the team captain to “Call It”

It’s not easy yet it is necessary.  I’ve done it. Here’s what I did:

  1. Pick the appropriate time and place to Call It.  In private if possible.
  2. It was uncomfortable for me so I acknowledged my feelings about it.  I let her know I was uncomfortable.
  3. Then I asked permission.  Is it ok to talk about it right now?  If they so no, honor it and ask them when would be a good time to talk.
  4. My goal in talking to her was to talk about and correct the behavior not her, the person.  I depersonalized it – by talking about the behavior. “We agreed to no gossiping on our team…”
  5. I stated specifically and succinctly what didn’t work – I avoided telling the whole story!  Then I offered a solution. “We have an agreement to not gossip on our team. I heard you talking about so and so and she was not there.  We agreed to talk to people directly. I’m happy to help you talk through the situation so you can get clear on what you want to say to so and so.  Will that help? Great – then you need to go talk to so and so directly.
  6. Remind them of the benefits to the team when we all stay true to our team culture.
  7. Remind them of what we agreed to in the beginning of the season.
  8. Allow them to respond.  Listen. Thank them for listening to you.
  9. If and when you see them correct the behavior – acknowledge it.

It’s normal for team to have upsets and breakdowns.  The key is catch it early, address the situation and get everyone back on track as quickly as possible.  

Good Luck!