Mediation Programs for Collegiate Sports Teams - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 53, No. 4
The author is a partner in the Austin, Tex., law firm of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, and is a full-time mediator, arbitrator, and lecturer. He also teaches mediation for the State Bar of Texas and as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
The following article contains excerpts from the author’s Frank E.A. Sander lecture at the ABA convention in Toronto this year. It also contains a brief overview of a mediation program he and his wife, Kimberlee Kovach, implemented at the University of Texas.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Success in sports requires diverse members of a team to row with the same oar and focus on the “we,” rather than the “me.” While coaches attempt to teach leadership skills and teamsmanship along with technique, collegiate sports programs are not immune to conflict. Disputes arise between players and between players and coaches. Such disputes, if not dealt with effectively, may adversely affect team moral and performance on the field. The conventional approach to such conflicts has typically been authoritarian in nature. The coach lays down the law. Someone wins. Someone loses. But the dispute festers and impacts both the players and the team.
Dispute resolution techniques, especially those like mediation, which empower players to communicate and generate their own solutions, may be more effective than the authoritarian approach. Mediation creates “win-win” solutions, provides leadership training, and increases the
attitude that we are all in this together. The premise is, that by training an entire team about mediation and specifically identifying seven or eight team members who will serve as team mediators, teams will be able to resolve disputes more efficiently and effectively. The hope is, that
because disputes are minimized and resolved more creatively, the team is able to focus on team goals, and performance on the field will be enhanced.