Is your team’s culture creating an environment consistent with your organization’s mission, values, goals, and objectives? Does your team culture support competitive success? Team culture is fundamental and yet not easily understood. Often, an unhealthy culture can go unnoticed and the behaviors can be anywhere from unproductive to downright shocking.
What core competencies are common to the most successful teams? How best to maximize the talent on the field through off-field activities? How do you ensure peak performance for your team?

Core Competencies

SCI has established and identified core competencies consistently found in the most successful organizations and teams. SCI can work with your organization or team to understand a current baseline of competencies and develop a specific strategic plan for to mature your organization or team to ensure optimal performance.

Peak-Performace-Team-Model _final


For short periods of time, a team can win while in chaos. Talent is always a major factor in team success and if you throw enough of it together it will stick, from time to time, without having to align the team in ways apparent at both the Repeatable and Peak Performance levels. However, this represents a major gamble and one that will ultimately result in sub-optimal performance. It’s also an incredibly stressful experience for many administrators, coaches, and athletes to be part of a team in Chaos. Even where there is short-term success on the field, there is often the opposite occurring in other facets of the team.  The teams with continued reputation for success on and off the field do not operate in Chaos.


Repeatable is a good place to be for a team and represents a marked improvement over Chaos. At this level, there tends to be a clear culture and way of doing things for the team. Roles, rules, expectations are all clear. Where teams fall short at this level is in identifying specific characteristics of their athletes and tailoring in nuanced, but important ways to truly achieve Peak Performance given the specific individuals in the tea,


True success, on and off the field, comes from organizational and team competencies that maximize talent in all roles. This is about establishing a team culture with clear values and ways but also identifies purposeful variation in how things are done to leverage the characteristics of the individuals involved. SCI has a full scale assessment instrument to identify gaps and assist in laying the foundation for success.

The Sports Playbook

Based off the key concepts outlined in The Sports Playbook: Building Teams that Outperform, Year after Year, SCI works closely with your organization to establish a high performance culture that maximizes your talent. 

How does Team Culture Develop?

Team Culture forms as a result of shared customs, rituals, beliefs, knowledge, and practices that become common to team members over time.  These common cultural elements are usually passed down from the older team members to the younger team members and are reinforced by existing team leadership.


Each successful sports team has to apply specific team roles for each member of the team, ideally those that are aligned with individual competencies. Optimizing performance is possible only when the team is well balanced by having a:

  • Captain– to communicate and bridge the team members with coaches, and sometimes make tactical decisions on behalf of the coach.
  • Leader – to lead the team to reach a goal by identifying and communicating strategies and leading by personal example. This role is important during critical moments of the competition or even during practice, in order to achieve specific goals outlined by the coach.
  • Superstar – to do something that seems impossible or to shine. A Super Star may have concern for the team but their primary focus is on themselves and their individual performance and recognition. Superstars may also set standards, which motivate those less talented to excel further. Many healthy teams have no more than one person of this caliber as team dynamics become more complicated and performance can suffer with too many.
  • Team Members – to execute directions from the captain and the leader, and to support the Super Star in achieving individual results and hereby improve team performance.

Assignment of team roles must consider the character of individual athletes (e.g. one person cannot be a Team Member and a Super Star simultaneously because these roles require a completely different type of character). It is important for athletes and the coaches to understand their natural predisposition to perform in the right role. Trying to change the team’s natural division of roles (or working against character) creates conflict and chaos that lead to team or individual frustration and consequently performance may be affected.

It is important for a team to have complementary characters where the weaknesses of some individuals are offset by the strengths of others. For example, when a coach wants to set up a defence line, he may want to choose players with high tolerance as a character trait, because they will easily more easily accept the tactic and strategy of the opponent and develop a counter strategy, which may help the team to win the game. Low tolerance players are more inclined to reject the other team’s strategy rather than understand it.

The most successful tactics and strategies are those applied based on the athlete’s character strengths in the case of individual sports, and those based on the team members’ complementary strengths for team sports.

Understanding Team Culture is Critical

It is critical to understand your team culture. Even the most concerned leaders may struggle to gain accurate insight as to what behaviors happen outside of their purview. Team culture is complicated and develops both organically and through dynamics that may not easily be observed from within.

Team Process

SCI conducts process improvement events called, Kaizen (改善), Japanese for “improvement”, or “change for the better” which refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in management. SCI brings this practice to sports management to facilitate rapid improvement and leaning of critical management processes.

A key element of Kaizen is to ensure all relevant stakeholder, not just leaders, are involved in this intensive process improvement process. It is ideally suited for the sports industry where inefficiency equals competitive disadvantage and those that adapt most rapidly achieve their goals.

Basically, we can make things a lot better in one or two days!

Dispute Systems Design

How are disputes handled on your team or in your athletic department or sports business organization? Is the process fair and transparent? Is it cost-effective? Does it identify issues early and create a clear path to resolution?

What methods will be used to prevent and resolve conflict? How does the system interact with other systems (e.g., the NCAA and the formal legal system)? What are the advantages and disadvantages to participation in the system?

Who should be involved in system design? Whose interests does it represent (e.g., coaches, players, fans, administrators, etc.)? The more stakeholders included in the dispute system design, the more likely that it will gain the credibility necessary to endure over time. The overall cost of any conflict is dispersed among a number of stakeholders. In sport situations, these groups could be roughly divided into the following categories: administrators, coaches, athletes, and supporters.

Does the system have adequate financial and human resources to meet its goals? Are there enough trained neutrals? Is there sufficient access to conflict prevention and resolution education? Are the available procedures appropriate to prevent and resolve the disputes that occur? The investment should be cost-beneficial and should reflect the level and frequency of the organization’s experience with destructive conflict. The system should not introduce a new cost burden; in the end, it should help the organization save money and other valuable resources.

What is the level of transparency? Consistency? Is the system able to meet its intended goals? How is the system evaluated? By whom? How do the system implementers utilize evaluation to continuously improve the system? The structure of the system will determine its level of success. If the assessment identifies the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, the stated goals specifically address those weaknesses, and stakeholders at all levels feel they have been afforded an opportunity to shape the system, it will have a good chance of success. A detailed system design also serves as a template from which to act and establishes a consistent method to address particular instances of conflict.

SCI can help you find answers in creating a culture that proactively addresses its issues and has a dispute system in place.

Conflict Management Skills

Do you, an an athlete, coach, or administrator handle conflict as effectively as you need to? Do you understand your conflict style and how to best interact with others of different styles? Do you have effective tool for understanding a particular situation and planning an effective path forward?

Communication skills do not equate to effective sports conflict management skills. Much like the specific skills we learn in sports, we must engage in the theory and then use deliberate practice to develop and improve our skills for being able to minimize the negative impact of destructive conflict and to work toward being able to effectively use incidents of conflict as a catalyst for growth and change.

SCI Play-By-Play™ Model

SCI has developed a highly effective conflict model, Play-By-Play™, to provide a useful framework in quickly understanding and navigating conflict as it occurs. It is meant to be a highly accessible model that can quickly be learned and recalled in heated moments that require quick decision making.

In an era of twitter, facebook, instagram, etc., there is little room for error in how any of us deal with conflict. It is how we respond to those moments that often determine successes or problems ahead.

SCI uses a number of scenarios to explain the model and to make it come alive as an effective framework that can easily be used to understand, prevent, and resolve conflict in sports.

Outside the Box / Inside the Ring®

The Outside the Box / Inside the Ring® conflict resolution curriculum was originally developed by SCI Founder, Joshua Gordon, and Joseph Morrissey while graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Boston Graduate Program on Dispute Resolution in the late 1990s. It was extremely well-received and offered as an open-source curriculum used in over 30 countries.

The curriculum has adapted over time and is now a cutting-edge, experiential curriculum introducing basic conflict resolution skills in sports through the Sports Conflict Institute.

Conflict skills need to be learned and practiced as they are not inherently individual development. Like any skill in sports, it must be taught through deliberate practice and is not something that can simply be read and absorbed. With the virtual extinction of sandlot sports, the need to explicitly introduce these skills at all levels of sport is greater than ever.


  • Fair Factor 
  • What’s Up?
  • Do You Speak Conflict?
  • Dudes, Whose Shoes?
  • Say What?
  • How Can You Win When I Win?
  • Be A Leader!

The foundational materials can be adapted to address the specific sports-conflict related problems encountered most in your sports organization.

A Neutral Perspective

A neutral, skilled, external perspective is often necessary to understand and develop a clear path forward. SCI has deep experience in working with teams and organizations on team and organizational culture and ensuring that individual experience is what it should be. Furthermore, this understanding is the foundation for a high performing team or organization.

SCI has developed a number of sports and sports business specific training approaches and provides customized sports conflict management skills training for sports organizations and teams to address the types of problems most likely to be encountered in your sport and your level.