Assessed the needs for a large youth sports organization and then developed and staffed one of the first Sports Ombuds offices in the country to reduce a number of costs of conflict at this organization.

Quarterly Reports: The reports highlight areas of progress and strength of the Kidsports organization over a given quarter, as well as areas where the organization can improve. Examples of strengths are the building of clear and effective communication lines throughout the organization, the initiative of staff to take on new projects as well as adapt projects to be more effective, and the passion for youth sports which is shown through the extra work done by the staff. Examples of areas to improve have been a focus on harassment guidelines (specifically those which have blurred lines with regard to being under Kidsports’s authority or not), workload of the sports managers, communication of the policies regarding how coaches are kept or retained from sport to sport or year to year.

Case Examples: The following are just a few examples of the types of cases the Ombuds office helps to prevent and resolve at Kidsports (note: cases are drawn from experience, but the details are hypothetical in order to preserve confidentiality).

– A boy on a middle-school aged baseball team aggressively kicked a teammate during a practice. The coaches and parents thought something needed to happen in order to move forward, they were just unsure what that may be. The Omubuds met with a Kidsports representative, as well as the coach, the boy who kicked a teammate, and the parents of that boy. As a group, options were discussed, and a plan of action was agreed upon, and all parties felt like they could move forward effectively without any future similar issues.

– A coach of an elementary-school aged basketball team was having a perceived conflict with the parents of his players on the boundaries between parents and coaches. Parents had been texting/emailing what he thought of as over-the-line remarks, and were also interfering with what he wanted in coaching the team at games (parents crossing the court to talk to him at the bench, for instance). A team meeting – with the coach and parents – was called, with the Ombuds asked to be present. The Ombuds helped facilitate the meeting in order to help the coach and parents form an agreed upon framework of interactions and communications with one another.

– Two coaches of a soccer team were having a conflict over what roles the two should have. The head coach had been a coach for many years, and the assistant was newer. The assistant coach thought the head coach needed to adopt, and they butt heads over styles and methods. At one point, the assistant coach felt physically threatened by the head coach, and took the issue to Kidsports. The Ombuds met with the two coaches, as well as a Kidsports representative, to work out the issue for all parties. The goal was to have the coaches come to personal as well as professional agreements in order to best move forward for the kids on the team. The Ombuds helped mediate the conflict between the coaches.

– The Ombuds regularly attends meetings for coaches, gym supervisors, and others in order to offer conflict coaching tips and suggestions to empower those on the ground to better prevent conflict. In addition, the Ombuds offers conflict coaching to the Kidsports staff on a regular basis to address looming and under-the-surface conflicts. In addition to this conflict coaching efforts, the Ombuds office produces a bi-monthly Positive Engagement letter, aimed at helping parents and coaches do exactly that – positively engage – in youth sports. Click here for an example of a recent Positive Engagement letter sent out by the Ombuds office.


SCI was originally engaged by Kidsports to assist with several specific incidents that had occurred during play in soccer and basketball. The initial approach was to assign mediators to those conflicts to provide an immediate resource for resolving those particular incidents. Once the dust had settled, Kidsports' Executive Director, Bev Smith, and SCI Founder, Joshua Gordon, partnered to outline an assessment process that included stakeholder surveys and interviews and sport-specific conflict observation with an emphasis on coaches, parents, and officials. The result of this assessment was a clear indication of both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs included a substantial revenue loss from refunds on an annual basis, poor athlete retention, and under-performance by a number of teams and athletes. Indirect costs included bad PR, significant staff resources being spent addressing conflict and issues, staff burnout and retention issues, and young athletes leaving sport activity and not returning (with higher risk associated with lack of participation in athletics such as poorer academic performance, higher rates of substance abuse, etc.).


Given the breadth and depth of issues identified as part of the assessment and a strong relationship with a conflict studies graduate program at the University of Oregon, SCI proposed a charter to launch an Ombuds office dedicated to addressing issues with all stakeholders in the Kidsports community. The purpose of this approach was to provide a powerful mechanism for addressing acute conflicts as they occur while creating a continuous assessment process for understanding opportunities for dispute system design and organization change to prevent similar issues from recurring. SCI trained a number of graduate students on theory and skills for Ombudsing and provided direct guidance on all cases. Specific involvement included counseling, facilitation, observation, mediation, negotiation, education, and assessment / reporting. The quarterly reports provided significant insight to the Board for where they should focus energies. The result has been a significant reduction in both the direct and indirect costs detailed during the assessment. This has allowed Kidsports to retain athletes, coaches, and staff while eliminating costly refunds and drain on staff resources. This year, Kidsports has experienced a revenue surplus for the first time in over a decade and staff are focused on long-term planning and success while SCI helps prevent and resolve conflict in a highly cost-efficient manner.


The Kidsports Ombuds office remains a critical part of the organization that presents a substantial return on investment. SCI's Kidsports Ombuds Office