When it comes to sport, typically there can be only one individual or team that “wins” the game, race, match or event.

This is also the case when a dispute is taken through an adversarial process like litigation or arbitration. There can be only one winner.

The downside of this, of course, is if you are not the winner. You have lost.

relay batons

When it comes to game day, you only have yourself to rely on. You put everything into it; you train hard, eat right and mentally focus on the finishing line. If it is not your day, then it is not your day, and you can say that the other team or person was just better, fitter or more mentally focused. Then you set your mind to the next goal.

But when it comes to fighting the fight in a courtroom, you can’t have the same faith in yourself or your case. You can do all the preparation but when it comes to the crunch, someone else is making the decision. Not you, and not the other party. You are powerless.

You could go further to argue that in a courtroom, there really is no winner, when you assess the time, cost, stress and potential damage to reputation that results from the adversarial battlefield.

So why do most sporting disputes end up in adversarial processes such as litigation or arbitration, where the decision is just that – arbitrary?

As a mediator, this baffles me. The sport industry is not a large one. People know people who know people. Relationships are key and reputation is essential.

These are the cards you gamble with when you enter an arbitrary process, yet they are the very cards that you can share and add value to in a process like mediation.

Mediation gives you the opportunity to share strategies, strengths and concerns. It allows you and the other party to join the same team and face the competitor head on – the problem. Collaborative problem solving, with the assistance of a mediator, is not about warm fuzzy moments. You lose none of the tough discussion that is essential in order to draw a line and move forward.

Think of a good mediator like you would a good referee – keeping the process (the game) as fair as possible. A good mediator will ask the tough questions, test reality and facilitate negotiations so that you reach outcomes that meet the core needs and values of both parties. Outcomes are of your choosing. A higher authority does not impose them. You do have power.

Whether a dispute relates to contract discussions, team sports, club or association battles, mediation provides a confidential forum for constructive discussion. This saves you the time, cost and stress of adversarial processes and arbitrary decisions and gives you the chance to get on with it – to focus on your next goal, be it the game, race, match or event.

So go on, change the game from an adversarial to collaborative one when it comes to conflict. And reap the rewards.