Managing Female Team Drama

shelba waldronAdolescents, Coaching With Intent, Women

As International Women’s Day comes to a close for another year, I offer a plea. Please stop crippling our girls. The media, specifically reality television sets up the female persona to be bitchy, catty, and dramatic. Many girls, especially the ones without strong female role models at home, internalize this behavior as normal. In turn, they bring it to school and to practice. This can lead to in-team arguing. Adults have a difficult time knowing when and how they should intervene in arguments between female teammates. On one hand, there is a sense on the adults part to let the girls work it out themselves to better teach maturity. On the other hand, many coaches want the in-fighting to stop since it often hinders productivity. So what do you do?

Start first with the premise that a teenager doesn’t always need an intervention. When treated like adults, most will rise to the highest level of expectation. A simple statement such as, “It is expected that you act mature and professional at all times and that means treating your teammates with respect,” will go a long way and the problem often with stop there. If it doesn’t, then a coach must go through the steps of making sure that the girls involved in the drama will stop the behavior or incur consequences. Female teammates must understand that in life, going to the boss for every relationship issue they have with a co-worker is unacceptable. Going to the boss for issues with other women is the last thing any woman should want to do. It makes them look unprofessional, immature, and childish. It looks poorly on them during evaluation season and in cases of promotion. In the event that layoffs must occur, the person who can’t solve their interpersonal relationships will be the first to go. When we don’t teach this skill, we cripple them.

Some basic steps below help the girls grow through the drama to learn lessons they will carry throughout life when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

Step 1. Work it out yourself.

The girls should be expected to respect other women and lift them up. Most in-team drama occurs because of jealousy. Didn’t make captain? So sorry. Didn’t get the solo? Too, bad. Didn’t make the basket? Try harder next time. Jealousy stems from insecurity, but it wreaks havoc on a players/performers ability to succeed and that in term hurts the team. We must teach them that life isn’t fair. It never has been and it never will be. As young people grow, they find that they won’t get the job they are perfectly qualified for and the book they have dreamed of writing won’t be a best seller, even if it should be. They will learn that they won’t have the greatest marriage or the greatest job. The lesson we are to teach them is the one that tells them that it’s ok to not be the best and it’s ok to be the best but not the most successful, because that’s life and how we work through that creates our inner peace.

Step 2. Just Stop It!

Don’t deal with this. You tell them to stop it. Gossip is sabotage to any team and a killer to success. Gossip should not and cannot be tolerated. A person should be called out for gossip as it is the fastest step to killing team morale. It is based on cruelty, exaggerations, and lies. It is ingrained in women that gossip is a natural asset to female survival, when in all reality it’s just simply mean. There are entire movies and tv shows build around female gossip. Every reality show is based around it. The movies Mean Girls and Bring It On is another one. Women should lift each other up. Not tear each other down.

Step 3. Let the captain intervene.

This is their job. The captain is put in place to help her teammates with morale and personal issues related to the team. If someone is having trouble with another player or performer, then let the captain take the first go round with dealing with it. It builds their leadership skills and helps them grow as young women in a world where we need strong female leaders. If the captain is the problem, then get rid of the captain and put someone else in her shoes.

Step 4. Stop the constant meetings.

In the real world, meaning college and the workforce, no one has time to meet with a bunch of women to work out their little fights. If the problem persists, bring the girls together and set a time limit. “We will discuss this for 30 minutes and at the end of that 30 minutes this issue will be done. That is it. Once it’s over, if any of you fail to adhere to the set forth solution, then we will seek to find another activity for you.” It’s amazing how things just “get better” when a persons position is threatened.

When we give credence to female drama and let it persist, then we cripple the girls for life. We make them believe that women should be fighting among themselves and that there must be someone to “save them from themselves.” They need to learn to save themselves and to support other women or they will learn that there are consequences to creating drama. Those consequences could be mild or severe based on the situation. Sitting out of a game/performance is a potential solution, but removing the person from the team in extreme situations could do more for her future than endless team meetings on drama. My recommendation? Set the rules early on.

There will be no disrespect.
There will be no gossip.
There will be no drama.
You will treat disagreements with maturity and work it out among yourselves first before coming to the “boss.”

Manage the drama early on and manage it fast. The tone in how you as a coach handle drama, will determine how much drama will occur. If you manage it in such a way that raises the expectations of female comradery and sisterhood, then the drama becomes virtually nonexistent. If you fuel it by inserting yourself and taking sides then all I can say is good luck on your success, because you will not be coaching to win, you will be coaching to survive.

Author: Shelba L Waldron

Shelba is a coaching and program consultant for youth programs and youth development expert. To contact her please email her at [email protected] or visit the services page at