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3 Tips for bringing bad news in Sports

Sports are fun, we laugh, play, compete and enjoy……..BUT NOT ALWAYS!

As an administrator or sports manager, in charge of management (on any level) it is very important to know some different ways of communication. Whether you are the president or the one in charge of laundry, communication is important especially if it concerns bad news or difficult decisions.

In firsts instance we all are evaluated by the way we communicate, and not immediately by our message. If somebody feels that they are listened to and respected as a person, the news can be very bad, but it will probably give no problems.

Giving bad news is a part of life, and it happens in each and every sport. There are still lots of people though who find it difficult to give bad news. They simply have no idea how to start, and already start sweating by the thought of having the conversation. A few examples of giving bad news in sports are:

  1. Telling an athlete that he/she didn’t make the final selection
  2. Firing an employee
  3. Informing your sponsor that an athlete had problems with the police

Let’s look at the following three tips to help you in any future situation that will occur sooner or later in your sports organizations.



There are a lot of aspects to think about and there is a lot of psychology behind the whole process. But it comes down to being prepared. Prior to each decision, there should be logic reasoning, transparent policies and ethical analysis. If you fail with one of these, I can assure you that you will get problems.



Another important point of preparation is to try to put yourself in the shoes of the other person(s), and imagine how you would feel if you this bad news would affect you. Is it very suddenly or is it expected? Is there money involved? What kind of questions would you have? Is the decision fair?



In many cases the decision is inevitable, but you have to think about selecting the person to bring the news. Most technical decisions are taken by the coach, and should as such be delivered by him/her.

But if you are part of a team (board) you should pick the “messenger” very strategically. He/ or she should be known by the other party, and should be good informed about the process leading up to the decision. Tact and diplomacy are important, and somebody who feels comfortable with the decision should be picked. Be aware though that there are situation, where nobody feels comfortable and then the leader should do it.

“Don’t shoot the messenger!”

One other point you need to consider is the way you will break the news. You can decide to make a special appointment, and start saying that you have some bad news. The other way is to just give the news at the very first opportunity you have to talk to the other person. My preference is the first one, especially with (very) bad news.

In cases where the bad news affects more people like a whole sports team, there should be more “neutral” people present. Everybody will react their own way, and the verbal ones will need attention. Take your time for this meeting, and don’t rush it.

So there you have it….some tips for giving bad news in sports. It is not easy to see people getting disappointed, but it really is part of the game of sports. The challenge is not getting (too) emotionally involved, but on the other hand emotion in sports makes it more interesting and FUN !