Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ombuds in Sports Setting

Back in April 2013, after the Rutgers men's basketball news came to light, I queried whether there would be a role for conflict coaches in the sports setting. I thought so then and still do. 

Since then we've seen a number of sports conflict stories in the news ranging from Jonathan Martin in Miami to news today that a group of student athletes are filing a class action lawsuit against the NCAA for player pay.  There are also a number of different student-athlete issues facing UNC Chapel Hill in the news.

With this as a backdrop, I was pleased to see an excellent recent discussion on Ombuds in Sports hosted at the Sports Conflict Institute in Oregon. Led by Founder and Senior Practitioner Josh Gordon, SCI TV, posted an interview with John Zinsser who has worked in the ombuds field for over 20 years. 

John walks us through the ombuds concept and then overlays it upon the Jonathan Martin situation, Rutgers basketball, and beyond.  We learn that there is no "typical" ombuds because every organization and company is different, so each ombuds office is different.  Yet the concept can translate and John suggests how the NFL might implement such a program. I particularly appreciated John's focus on the value added by an organizational ombuds and how such a role could work in concert with an athletic department compliance office.  I also thought his comments about how an athletic department might want its own ombuds in addition to a university ombuds program made a lot of sense. John explained that its not unusual for different settings to have an ombuds in order to more closely serve that population.  Finally, John made the key point that there is high value in having an ombuds office for most any organization.   Here's a link to the interview - Ombuds in Sports

I continue to encourage sports organizations to think about off-the-field support for players, coaches, and the organization as a whole.  Additionally, while the ombuds concept is focused on conflict resolution, as John Zinsser notes, the role has broader organizational implications.  

Finally, while not as an ombuds, I've had the opportunity to recently work with a local soccer academy, the Capital Area Railhawks Development Academy, facilitating some team meetings. I've led some team building, leadership, and goal discussion meetings and found the players receptive to working together off the field. I anticipate that this off the field work will translate to on the field success.

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