SCI SPORTS OMBUDS PROGRAM AT KIDSPORTS

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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.

ASSESSMENT

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.).

INTERVENTION

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.

SUSTAINABILITY

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