Our Approach

More often than not, organizations and teams seek to develop issue prevention strategies after destructive episodes of conflict have transpired. This is a worthwhile and necessary reason to employ conflict management skills; however, it is not a particularly cost-effective approach. Resolving current conflicts is imperative. If, however, we only learn to address the most destructive episodes of conflict and we neglect to learn strategies to prevent future conflicts, we will only reduce the associated costs by a mere fraction of that which is possible. SCI emphasizes prevention activities that set-up your organization or team for sustainable success. 

What Causes the Most Pain?

Why wait for issues to arise if we can predict and prevent many of them by leveraging best practices understood through years of research and analysis? Why not invest in proactive and positive solutions instead of wasting valuable resources and tarnishing reputations with investigations, terminations, and post-mortems?

Limit The Cost and Impact of Destructive Conflict

Administrators, coaches, athletes, and supports all feel the pain when destructive sports conflict arises. Compliance issues, hazing, bullying, team conflict, legal issues, relationship issues, poor locker room culture all undermine opportunity for success and cost money, wins, and immeasurable reputational equity. Typically, the cost of prevention activities pay for themselves by preventing just one incident over the next 5 years.

Prevention Services

SCI has significant expertise in team and organizational solutions designed to prevent problems that overshadow all of the good work and good will that goes into our sporing lives.  SCI partners with your staff to leverage internal resources and develop sustainable solutions to allow your teams to be known for their successes on and off the field.

Contact SCI to discuss your prevention needs

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Preventing Conflict Prepares for Optimal Performance

The “fallacy of the angry athlete” reinforces the common misconception that volatility is an athletic attribute. Science, however, has determined that although an angry athlete may be able to throw the ball harder, he is much less likely to hit the target.

Inside the Lines

At the most basic level, athletes who possess the necessary skills to prevent and resolve conflict are able to stay in the game. Additionally, athletes who possess conflict management skills are able to remain focused on the game in high-pressure situations. They can effectively manage conflict when it arises in the heat of the moment without allowing it to negatively impact their human performance.

Outside the Lines

When players and coaches are able to prevent and resolve conflict in their personal lives, they are better able to focus during training and on the field.

Preventing Conflict Enhances the Quality of Competition

Conflict prevention skills enable athletes to achieve the zone of optimal performance, to find the sweet spot in which the athlete is fully engaged and performance is uncompromised by unwieldy emotions or outside distractions.

How Do We Prevent Conflict in Sports?

Measurable growth and meaningful change require time and diligence. The problem is embedded deep within the system, and it is the system itself that produces and reproduces the problems year after year after year. This pattern will continue until we change our approach.

A Systemic Problem Requires Systemic Attention

Destructive conflict occurs at all levels of skill and participation—from the field to the stands, administrators to spectators, sponsors to the media. We generally attribute responsibility to players (and occasionally to coaches). These highly visible participants should be held accountable. So too should the other responsible stakeholders. If athletic administrators and coaches fail to adopt a systemic approach to preventing and resolving sports conflict, the industry will continue to experience  “predictable surprises”—the disasters we should have seen coming that have plagued the industry for decades.

Assessment: What it is & Why it Matters

The first step in addressing any conflict situation is to conduct an assessment. Assessment attempts to establish a complete picture of the situation. It is a critical step toward understanding the layers of conflict and identifying the parties (or stakeholders) involved. The assessment provides an organization with a map of the issue and enables its members to implement conflict prevention tools that effectively address context-specific issues. When all the variables are on the table for consideration, parties are generally able to develop solutions that are durable and agreeable to all.


The assessment ultimately leads to a diagnosis of the issue at hand.

  • What kinds of disputes occur? Whom do they involve? How frequently do they occur?
  • How are they addressed?
  • Why are these procedures used to address the dispute as opposed to others?
  • What prevents the existing system from successfully resolving disputes? Is there a lack of procedures, skills, motivation or resources?

The answers to these questions will help to inform necessary changes. It is also important to understand the specific costs and benefits associated with the dispute situations identified when answering the questions above.

Establishing Core Competencies

Like all acquired skills, conflict prevention and resolution skills take practice to develop. We must adopt a multi-dimensional approach to athletic training that recognizes the physical, the mental, and the interaction between the two in order to employ these skills in the active settings for which we train. Training in the third dimension, the realm in which mental and physical meet in real time, must simulate the situations in which athletes seek to achieve the outcomes.
Experts and researchers have referenced the following as core competencies for all successful athletes:

  • Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Leadership
  • Collaboration
  • Problem-Solving
  • Life Skills
  • Heat of the Moment Conflict Skills

If we support athletes in developing these skills, and we provide opportunities in which to integrate and practice them both on and off the field, we will enable athletes to develop core competencies critical to both individual and team success.

Strategies for Preventing Conflict in Sports

Sports-related conflict is distinctly different from other types of conflict, largely because there are clear winners and losers, and because the conflict frequently occurs in physically-oriented settings. As a result, sports require a specialized approach to conflict prevention and resolution.

Ombuds: Finding the Middle Ground

The majority of ombuds work to help resolve existing conflict; however, an important result of ombudswork is also directly tied to prevention. Ombuds have an opportunity to work with a number of stakeholders through a variety of conflict situations. They ask questions and attempt to identify the underlying causes of conflict through confidential interviews and consultations. Because this work enables ombuds to see the larger picture through the eyes of many different stakeholders, they are well positioned to identify conflict trends and recommend areas for organizational or institutional change.

Heat of the Moment Conflict Skill Development

Sport-related conflict rarely occurs around a table. It happens when the pace is intense and emotions run high. This poses a particular challenge to resolving conflict in sports. Conflict resolution skills, when practiced and strengthened like any other learned skill, can become so engrained that athletes are able to utilize them at any time, even under immense pressure.

Sports Conflict Observation Tools (SCOTs)

These tools enable coaches, players, and practitioners to identify and analyze very early stages of conflict and to effectively address the issue before it escalates to larger proportions. Practitioners or team leaders observe teams in practice and game situations and utilize the tool to chart various types of observable conflict that occur and the participants involved. They can then attempt to proactively address such instances and prevent future escalation.

Destructive conflict inflicts enormous costs upon players, coaches, administrators, and supporters. While conflict may be inevitable, the costs of destructive conflict certainly are not. Resolving existing conflict is imperative; however, if we truly seek to optimize performance and minimize costs, we must focus our attention on prevention as well. We must assume a systemic approach to solve a systemic problem. We must not neglect the foundation upon which we build as we set our sights toward increasingly greater athletic goals. Success at the highest levels is contingent upon the structural soundness of our foundation

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