The AFLUA recently facilitated an interactive webinar on effective conflict management for our current AFLW members, with the help of experienced AFL Field Umpire and AFLUA Life Member Chris Donlon.

As a certified Conflict and Drama trainer with Jewel Space, Chris uses his decades of management consulting, leading teams, projects and professional sports experience, to help leaders, individuals and teams spend less time in drama.

The 90-minute online session incorporated pre- and post-online assessments and reflection exercises for the participants. Chris noted the program’s scope was to encourage the AFLW umpiring group to work through scenarios relatable to their umpiring craft.

Chris Donlon (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

“Mis-managed conflict is a burden to organisations when there is a gap between where we are and where we want to be. It drains [professional] relationships, it’s unproductive, it gets in the way of problem-solving, and it damages [organisational] culture,” he said. “As umpires, we’ve experienced difficult performance conversations. When we understand our contribution to drama, we can apply positive conflict skills to ensure we don’t struggle against our coaches and ourselves.”

Chris added, “We touched on each of the modules within Next Element’s ‘Conflict & You – Basics of Compassionate Accountability’ program. The aim was to introduce drama roles and some positive conflict skills. Hopefully, each of the participants would get curious about what it is we were discussing, and be more aware when drama strikes.

“The assessments that the participants undertook post the workshop gave a good indication that the program itself was successful. We were able to get some significant changes around the program’s efficacy and the skills that we discussed.”

For webinar participant and AFLW Umpire Nick Jankovskis, who also works in the sports science and endurance performance field, the program’s simplicity was a crucial element. To him, this promoted increased self-awareness around identifying conflict, and improved understanding of positive conflict management strategies.

Nick Jankovskis (Photo courtesy – VFUA)

Nick noted, “Going through the questionnaires and the informal assessments to reflect on our own skills allowed you to look at it from an objective perspective – take that initial emotional reaction out. That approach to conflict is an interesting way to look at it, and an effective way of navigating these.

“We went through a good amount of information in the time that we had. But Chris did a good job of not overloading us with too much and taking in the key points. That was a good component that helped us with understanding of the content, and then being confident in being able to apply the strategies.”

Nick also commended the AFLUA’s initiative for facilitating this program, as a professional development opportunity our members could benefit from.

He said, “It’s great. Most of the AFLW group are developing umpires. We are at that point in our umpiring career, and in our professional careers as well, where we are starting to finish our studies, getting into the workplace. So, these are big learning opportunities, particularly in the space of key skills that are not just umpiring-related, but life-related as well.”


Thank you to Chris for his support in delivering this webinar, and to all the AFLW members who undertook the program this time around.

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