SCI Founder, Joshua Gordon, will be presenting along with John Zinsser at the Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists (PAADS) Summit at Major League Baseball’s headquarters in New York City on Friday May 2, 2014.

What is the Athlete Development Summit?

The Athlete Development Summit (ADS) was a concept first created by the NFLPA and hosted by the NFL in 2002. In conjunction with the NBA, it was expanded to include additional leagues and experts in the field of athlete development. Since then, the ADS has evolved into an annual conference attracting many of the leaders in athlete development from major sports organizations around the world. The ADS provides athlete development specialists with a forum for connecting with representatives of a wide variety of organizations in the profession and sharing best practices and ideas in the field of athlete development.

Previous ADS conferences have also included a diverse array of speakers and topics. Among these speakers were David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA, Dr. Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute, Mike Whan, Commissioner of the LPGA, and Kenneth Shropshire, a founder of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.

Below is an abstract of the presentation and bios on both speakers.

From the Front Page to the Mundane: How an Ombuds Can Help Athletes, Teams, and Organizations

Conflict naturally and regularly occurs. But, when denied or unaddressed—whether with self, another person, or one’s team or organization, it detracts from performance. Just like an injury, early attention fosters an easier recovery with far less negative impact and cost. Sports carries tremendous pressure to perform at an exceptionally high level amidst numerous internal and external stressors that threaten an individual’s and a team’s ability to achieve peak performance.

Situations like the locker room culture issues raised by the Miami Dolphins situation and numerous coach bullying allegations at institutions such as Rutgers, Oregon State, and Boston University provide high profile examples of how unattended concerns can derail seasons, careers, and the goodwill earned by individuals and organizations. These situations incur substantial direct and indirect costs and have undeniable impact on winning.

Similarly, there are numerous, less glamorous external stressors that interfere with athlete performance and development. These strains of the games include relationships, financial concerns, safety and security, transitions, logistics, self-doubt, vices and distractors, and a myriad of other factors that prevent teams and individuals from success on and off the field.

Where is a safe place for an athlete, coach, or administrator to turn when they need guidance or support in dealing with issues they face? How do teams and organizations ensure that there is a culture that fosters trust and winning?

Organizational ombuds programs support an individual who wants to deal with a concern before it becomes a larger issue. They offer a distinctly different approach to conflict management that would well serve the sports community.  Future-oriented, team-centered and reliant on individual accountability, ombuds programs share common traits of athletic success.

Defined by its core characteristics of independence, neutrality, informality and confidentiality, organizational ombuds programs create a safe space for participants to raise issues, consider options, plan responses and practice activities. Ombuds provide support to better address issues and concerns, while preserving relationships, reputations and value. Often referred to as an internal conflict coach, ombuds help those who voluntarily access a program to help themselves obtain better outcomes and peak performance. University and corporate ombuds programs have demonstrated high value from generating creative and enduring solutions to intractable conflicts, by providing a zero barrier, low risk mechanism to accessing support. Properly designed and executed, ombuds programs could also benefit leagues, teams, and individual athletes. They provide a natural connector to athlete development specialists, coaches, along with team and league administrators.

Unlike any other conflict management system, participants will learn how ombuds programs work and what components enable an ombuds program to deliver exceptional results. Participants will identify the elements they want to build upon for success and will discuss a series of hypothetical applications of how the ombuds concepts can support these. The active participant in the session will gain a fundamental understanding of ombuds programs and how they are best suited to support the well-being and advancement of a committed athletic organization. The team or organization provides a safe system for understanding its risk factors better and preventing similar issues from persisting.


About the Presenters:

Joshua A. Gordon is  conflict management professional for more than twenty years, Mr. Gordon is an experienced mediator, facilitator, educator, and organizational capability builder. Mr. Gordon specializes in sports related conflict management building on a history of contexts that have included business-to-business, organizational change, energy, environmental, real estate and housing, family, and gang-related conflict and disputes. He especially appreciates and enjoys complex, multi-party conflict that requires non-traditional solutions to impasse.

Mr. Gordon has developed creative organizational solutions to ensure competitive success for a number of teams and leagues from collegiate through the professional levels. He has presented to audiences that have included individuals and teams from the NCAA, NBA, NFL, MLS, NRL, MLB, USATF, USTA, PGA, LPGA, and ATP.

Mr. Gordon founded the Sports Conflict Institute (SCI) after previously directing the Competition Not Conflict (CNC) project at the University of Oregon School of Law Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center. Mr. Gordon sees the importance of supporting competitive goals in athletics through understanding, preventing, and resolving destructive conflicts that occur both inside and outside the lines. His goal is to ensure that SCI serves as a resource center and provides a range of services to help optimize performance. He is dedicated to minimizing destructive costs of conflict in sports, by looking far below the tip of the iceberg, and fostering the positive value sports can provide to athletes, coaches, supporters, and administrators.

Mr. Gordon has created a number of cutting-edge conflict management tools and curriculum, including, the Play-By-Play Model™, Outside the Box / Inside the Ring™, Stop Bully!™, Sports Conflict Observations Tools (SCOTs)™, and myriad others. He takes a systemic approach to problems that arise in sport through the use of powerful assessment instruments and interventions designed to specifically address the challenge at hand.

Mr. Gordon has a track record of bringing innovative solutions to problems in sports. Examples include establishing one of the first sports ombuds programs in the country; facilitating the introduction of digital trainers to promote cognitive skills associated with competencies such as high-speed decision making, emotional regulation, and feedback mechanisms to Oregon Football, Softball, and Baseball in coordination with Axon Sports; and developing positive reward and accountability systems for Oregon Football program including testing against 500+ cases to ensure behavior outcomes consistent with Coach Chip Kelly’s values, expectations, and goals.

Mr. Gordon has trained thousands of students in mediation, negotiation, and conflict management. As part of the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, he Instituted mediation and conflict resolution training programs in school systems throughout Massachusetts and was a member of the Conflict Intervention Team designed as first responders to gang violence.

Mr. Gordon continues to teach undergraduates and graduates at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR on courses related to sport & society, sports conflict management, law, and dispute resolution. He is the negotiation coach for the ABA Moot Court Negotiation Competition where he has successfully coached multiple teams to the National Competition, including the 2013 ABA National Champion which then competed in the International Negotiation Competition as the United States representative.

In addition to his career in conflict management and dispute resolution, Mr. Gordon is a competitive runner with recent Masters All-American performances in the mile, 3K, 5K, and 10K distances. He competes as part of the University of Oregon Running Club, Team 2XU, and the Bowerman Athletic Club with consistent top 1% finishes.

Mr. Gordon received his Juris Doctor from Suffolk University Law School, both his Master of Arts and a Graduate Certificate in Dispute Resolution from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology / Sociology with an Certificate in Criminal Justice from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

John W. Zinsser believes anyone facing a challenge, who wants help, deserves it. Senior Practitioner with the Sports Conflict Institute, LLC and co-founder of Pacifica Human Communications, LLC, he has supported Fortune 500 corporations, U.S. government agencies, and private institutions to consider, implement, assess and improve organizational ombuds programs. Whether as consultant, researcher, Columbia University professor, activist citizen or award winning ombuds, he continuously raises his voice for the capacity and value of organizational ombuds. His most recent article, “Prepared to be Valuable: Positioning Ombuds Programs to Assure Their Worth,” co-authored with Andrea Schenck, will appear in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association. His Master’s degree in conflict resolution from Antioch University featured a thesis demonstrating ombuds to be the most valuable form of conflict management in the non-union work environment. He is a graduate of Kenyon College, where he lettered in Lacrosse. He has competed in world championship level yacht racing.