The Sports Conflict Institute (SCI) supports competitive goals in athletics through assessing, preventing, and resolving destructive conflict inside and outside the lines. We specialize in risk management and performance optimization.

SCI serves as a resource center and provides a range of services to help manage risk and optimize performance in sports.

Conflict is inevitable. Our responses to it are what determine whether opportunity can follow or whether we simply incur the steep costs of a poor response.

This program supports organizational and individual goals through education, research, and service focusing in sports conflict. It is critical that the classroom connects closely to real­ world application to ensure that theory is understood both in the abstract and in its relevance today. The combination of sports management and sport and society through the lens of conflict management provides a strong interdisciplinary experience that impacts an underserved area of the sports industry. Every day, there is a sports conflict issue that makes national headlines. The untold stories and destructive costs to the business of sport far exceed those that constitute the tip of the iceberg.

SCI’s Founder, Joshua Gordon was previously the Director of the Competition Not Conflict (CNC project at the University of Oregon.  In this capacity, the need and importance of a specialized practice in sports conflict become evident. The mission of optimizing performance on and off the field in sports through understanding, preventing, and resolving conflict is based on a number of high-impact projects and research at the youth, intercollegiate and professional levels.

Sport has been an important element of societies worldwide for centuries. It facilitates a space for communities to come together across divisions of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Sport imparts valuable skills and meaningful experience for everyone involved. The current climate of competitive sport is also riddled with costs. Destructive conflict has grown so commonplace that many athletes and supporters are willing to accept it as part of the game. We confuse competition with conflict, and many games are reduced from a societal benefit to an ego-driven fight to avoid defeat at all costs.

Sports conflict, at times, is part of the narrative that makes sports appealing. This unscripted drama can be the essence of sports, however, when destructive conflict occurs the legal, business, and performance costs it imposes upon administrators, coaches, athletes and supporters can be significant and counterproductive to the core mission of the organization.

It is important to understand the cost of a single episode of conflict in relationship to winning, dollars, career development, etc. The overall cost is dispersed among a number of stakeholders.

The cost to each stakeholder group may include (but is not limited to):

  • Administrators: Loss of revenue streams, loss of good will, brand damage, time, stress, liability, reputational damage, job termination
  • Coaches: Team losses, financial losses, job termination, damage to future career opportunities, reputational damage
  • Athletes: Sub-optimal on-field performance, suspension, premature end to athletic career, loss of scholarship, defamation, damage to future professional opportunities, damage to personal life, loss of product endorsements, criminal sentence
  • Supporters: Loss of good will, dignity and spirit in connection with “their” team’s performance or personal behavior; reputational damage

SCI’s core efforts, to date, include education, research, and service. This unique emphasis has received national attention from youth through professional sports organizations, as the destructive costs of conflict become better understood in the thriving sports industry. Whether it’s labor disputes, team dynamics, athlete behavior, fan misconduct, or any number of issues that arise, conflict management has become an essential core competency for ensuring success in this industry.

What is SCI’s consulting process?

A. In general terms, SCI follows a FIND -> FIX -> SUSTAIN approach to all of its engagements. This typically involves six stages:

1. Alignment on objectives, scope of work, and nature of working relationship.

  • Define confidentiality
  • Discussion of specific issues, problems, or opportunities (review of preliminary materials for consultant review).
  • Understanding of urgency of the engagement – is this an immediate risk to performance or reputation?
  • What would success look like at the end of our work together?
  • What would a bad outcome look like?
  • What risks there surrounding this engagement?
  • What are the deliverables for this engagement?
  • Define scope with specificity.
  • What is the time frame for this work?
  • What challenges have you had in addressing these issues before?
  • What is the big picture view of the organization and where is it going?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • Who are the decision makers and sponsors?
  • What type of budget parameters are we working with?
  • What does the decision-making process for a Go / No Go decision look like?

2.  Engagement Agreements

  • Formal proposal process
  • Agree on scope and approach
  • Agree on work products, work activities, and work relationship
  • Agree on time frames and identify constraints
  • Address issues of access to information and individuals
  • Specify roles – who will do what
  • Agree on confidentiality for this engagement
  • Agree on attribution and levels of anonymity
  • Agree on fees and expenses
  • Execute written agreement

3. Assessment – Data Collection and Analysis

  • Executive the assessment plan
  • Gather and analyze data (interviews, surveys, document review, assessment instruments)
  • Present and discuss results of assessment with stakeholders

4. Report Review

  • Review draft report with stakeholders
  • Produce final report
  • Recommend specific interventions
  • Identify best practices

5. Intervention

  • Implement agreed upon activities to address problems or needs
  • Assist in evaluating internal options for implementation
  • Assist in locating and evaluating other external providers for implementation

6. Sustainment and Evaluation

  • Ensure structures, processes, training are on place for sustainment of implementation
  • Evaluate the consulting engagement and working relationship
  • Review the effectiveness of the interventions