Friday, March 26, 2010

Origins of Coaching

The term “coach” comes from the Middle English word coche, which meant “a wagon or carriage.” In fact, the word still carries this meaning today—such as when a person travels “coach” on a railway or airline. A “coach” is literally a vehicle which carries a person or group of people from some starting location to a desired location.

The notion of coaching in the educational sense derived from the concept that the tutor “conveys” or “transports” the student through his or her examinations. An educational coach is defined as “a private tutor,” “one who instructs or trains a performer or a team of performers,” or “one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a competitive sport and directs team strategy.” The process of being a coach is defined as “to train intensively (as by instruction and demonstration).”

Thus, historically, coaching is typically focused toward achieving improvement with respect to a specific behavioral performance. An effective coach of this type (such as a “voice coach,” an “acting coach,” a “pitching coach”) observes a person’s behavior and gives him or her tips and guidance about how to improve in specific contexts and situations. This involves promoting the development of that person’s behavioral competence through careful observation and feedback.

In recent years, starting in the 1980s, the notion of coaching has taken on a more generalized and expanded meaning. Coaching in organizations involves a variety of ways of helping people perform more effectively, including project, situational and transitional coaching. Project coaching involves the strategic management of a team in order to reach the most effective result. Situational coaching focuses on the specific enhancement or improvement of performance within a context. Transitional coaching involves helping people move from one job or role to another.

Many companies and organizations are opting for coaching of these types, in place of or in addition to training. Because coaching is more focused, contextualized and individually targeted, it is frequently more cost effective than traditional training methods in producing real change.

Another rapidly developing area of coaching is that of life coaching. Life coaching involves helping people to reach personal goals, which may be largely independent from professional or organizational objectives. Similar to transitional coaching, life coaching involves helping people deal effectively with a variety of performance issues which may face them as they move from one life phase to another.

Originally written by Robert Dilts

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Large "C" and Small "c" coaching

Large “C” and Small “c” Coaching

Clearly, personal coaching, executive coaching and life coaching provide support on a number of different levels: behaviors, capabilities, beliefs, values and even identity..

There is another level, that can best be referred to as a spiritual level. This level has to do with people’s perceptions of the larger systems to which they belong and within which they participate. These perceptions relate to a person’s sense of for whom or for what their actions are directed, providing a sense of meaning and purpose for their actions, capabilities, beliefs and role identity.
These new and more general forms of coaching—executive coaching and life coaching—can be referred to as capital “C” Coaching.

Small “c” coaching is more focused at a behavioral level, referring to the process of helping another person to achieve or improve a particular behavioral performance. Small “c” coaching methods derive primarily from a sports training model, promoting conscious awareness of resources and abilities, and the development of conscious competence.

Large “C” Coaching involves helping people effectively achieve outcomes on a range of levels. It emphasizes generative change, concentrating on strengthening identity and values, and bringing dreams and goals into reality. This encompasses the skills of small “c” coaching, but also includes much more.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

NeuroLogical Levels in Sport same in Corporate and Individuals

One of the most useful NLP models for capital “C” coaches is that of NeuroLogical Levels. Both coaching and modeling frequently need to address multiple levels of learning and change in order to be successful. According to the NeuroLogical Levels model (Dilts, 1989, 1990, 1993, 2000), the life of people in any system, and indeed, the life of the system itself, can be described and understood on a number of different levels: environment, behavior, capabilities, values and beliefs, identity and spiritual.

At the most basic level, coaching and modeling must address the environment in which a system and its members act and interact—i.e., when and where the operations and relationships within a system or organization take place. Environmental factors determine the context and constraints under which people operate. An organization’s environment, for instance, is made up of such things as the geographical locations of its operations, the buildings and facilities which define the “work place,” office and factory design, etc. In addition to the influence these environmental factors may have on people within the organization, one can also examine the influence and impact that people within an organization have upon their environment, and what products or creations they bring to the environment.

At another level, we can examine the specific behaviors and actions of a group or individual—i.e., what the person or organization does within the environment. What are the particular patterns of work, interaction or communication? On an organizational level, behaviors may be defined in terms of general procedures. On the individual level, behaviors take the form of specific work routines, working habits or job related activities.
Another level of process involves the strategies, skills and capabilities by which the organization or individual selects and directs actions within their environment—i.e., how they generate and guide their behaviors within a particular context. For an individual, capabilities include cognitive strategies and skills such as learning, memory, decision making and creativity, which facilitate the performance of a particular behavior or task. On an organizational level, capabilities relate to the infrastructures available to support communication, innovation, planning and decision making between members of the organization.

These other levels of process are shaped by values and beliefs, which provide the motivation and guidelines behind the strategies and capabilities used to accomplish behavioral outcomes in the environment—i.e., why people do things the way they do them in a particular time and place. Our values and beliefs provide the reinforcement (motivation and permission) that supports or inhibits particular capabilities and behaviors. Values and beliefs determine how events are given meaning, and are at the core of judgment and culture.

Values and beliefs support the individual’s or organization’s sense of identity—i.e., the who behind the why, how, what, where and when. Identity level processes involve people’s sense of role and mission with respect to their vision and the larger systems of which they are members.

Typically, a mission is defined in terms of the service performed by people in a particular role with respect to others within a larger system. A particular identity or role is expressed in terms of several key values and beliefs, which determine the priorities to be followed by individuals within the role. These, in turn, are supported by a larger range of skills and capabilities, which are required to manifest particular values and beliefs. Effective capabilities produce an even wider set of specific behaviors and actions, which express and adapt values with respect to many particular environmental contexts and conditions

As an individual we are a whole system within a system. As an individual on a sport team or in a corporate office we are whole system within that system. The magic happens when there is congruency which means the neurological levels are aligned. As an Optimal Performance Coach my work involves ensuring there is congruency in this alignment in individual players, teams in sport, coaches, management and in the corporate world.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shadows Play in Sport

Shadow Play in Sports

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, whose players have found a keenness for shadow play without a football one of the most unexpected changes to their training regime, insist that they must adapt to his new philosophies if they are to prosper. Mancini finds his approach to match preparation under scrutiny but responds to doubters by saying “I understand that maybe they are not happy working on tactics but this is my method. I work because if you want to win the Champions League and Premier League you must be prepared very well for every situation: tactics, power, running,” he said. If these things are not good, it is impossible to win. I don’t know if they don’t like that. They are all working very well.”

Shadow Play – in which two full sides go on to the training pitch with-out a ball, with one of the sides running into areas of the field where threats are anticipated in the next match and the other side is responding to them-is relatively uncommon in English training regimes. The continual focus is on the shape of the team as they move around the pitch.

Even the contingent of England Players at City are understood to be unfamiliar with shadow play, which does not tend to form part of Fabio Capello’s training sessions, though those who have trained under Capello do talk of similarities between the two Italian coaches in the work demanded in chasing back the to defend the numbers.

The City player best acquainted with the new approach – which is far different to predecessor Mark Hughes’ preference for quick, high tempo games training is goalkeeper Shay Given, who has experienced it under Giovvani Trapattoni in the Republic of Ireland set up. “Sometimes it can be a bit boring, walking through things and doing shape and shadow play in practice matches, ‘Given said of Trapattoni’s methods recently. “But you do BENEFIT from it as a team, knowing what the manager wants is crucial.

In my work as an Optimal Performance coach I work to ensure the logical levels in an individual are aligned. The result is congruency in the individual.  This means that the individuals on a team can actually come together as a team and match the coach and managers values which means there is no conflict which leads to winning.

Next: Logical Level alignment

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Name the Pain,” theologian Matthew Fox says.

By naming our demons we diminish their power over us. We reform them from demons back to diamons. Daimons were the origin of demons. They were divine spirits, demi-gods, intermediaries who passed notes back and forth between gods and humans. The Latin translation of daimons is soul. As such, they can be either creative or destructive, depending entirely on whether we receive them or reject them. By negating them, we turn them into angry spooks, consigning them to what poet John Milton called Panadaemonium, the capital of hell, and an apt decription of what happens in the human psyche when our guides are driven underground, when a force as powerful as the shadow is scorned.

Since shadow is largely what is unloved in us, and in some cases with good reason, reintegrating these parts will mean attempting to love them as if they are strangers who might be gods-but it’s still critical to keep our wits about us. Loving our own cruelty, rage, or vengefulness or narcissism is different from identifying with it or giving it license. Treating the devil with respect is not the same as worshipping the devil. Dealing with the shadow demands the ability to deal with paradox. Shadow must be love and transformed. It is intolerable and it is in us.

Novelist Isabel Allende says “A scary cellar accts as a stimulus to the imagination,” which is why she hides, in her own basement, “sinister surprises” for her grandchildren: a plastic skeleton, treasure maps, trunks filled with pirate disguises. Myth is also full of dualistic nature of the diamonic:

Pluto the Roman name for Hades, god of the Underworld, is also the god of Wealth.

We need to acquaint ourselves with our shadows and past in which it leaves it’s tracks, however, in order to become aware of as much of our experience as we can, to have as much information as possible to draw on for our own journey. We need to go bodily down through activities such a journaling, active imagination, bodywork and have spend some time just mucking around and getting to know the place. We really are meant to stick our noses in our deep strata. Annie Dillard once wrote. “When you move in, you try to learn the neighborhood.”

Danger lies not in the shadow itself but in the panic; in the acute anxiety that grips some people when confronted by some of the material there; in the fear of losing their footing in the conscious world because of what they find in the unconscious; in the fright of what they truly feel.

Above all, says Thomas Merton, take it easy. “The shadow is a frightening reality, and anyone who talks blithely about integrating it as if you could chum up to the shadow the way you learn a foreign language, doesn’t know the darkness that always qualifies a shadow.”

Not all suffering, to be sure is redeemed with gifts and talents-some times people grow up in sick families are just crippled by it – but the cold truth about turning a wound into a gift, if that is its nature, is that first you must FEEL it. You’ve got to be willing to go back and re-encounter the grief of it, starting with the brute fact that you got a bum deal, that justice is beside the point, and no one is going to make it up to you. The past cannot be changes only our attitude to it can be.

The past shapes us, but by following the deep calling to heal ourselves and throw off old curses, we may be able to reshape our response to the past and perhaps even the way  in which we remember it. Sometime we are called to move backward so we can move forward with a greater sense of ourselves, and with a greater confidence.

Next Shadowing in SPORTS

Monday, March 8, 2010


“Let the bird sing without deciphering the song”, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.

There is such a thing about too much thinking. We can analyze everything to death. Then we create paralysis through analysis. You can think too much which is something Dante and his guide Virgil. Discovered on their outing to the Inferno. Faith begins, if it begins at all where knowledge leaves off.

Even scientists will admit that they do all the homework they can but eventually rely on an intuitve leap. They call it informed intuition, and though it grows naturally out of periods of dogged rational work-which provides the raw material it needs to go on, the bits of clothing laced with scent-reason, again, only goes so far. Intuition is the last baton carrier. It doesn’t win the race alone, but it’s the one that crosses the finish line.The more practiced it is the less likely it is to get winded at crucial moments.

Intuition has receptors that seem able to hook all manner of passing emotions, like a bus that rolls through downtown picking up passengers. The passengers are not the bus, however, they are merely hitching a ride. Sports psychologist (and former athlete) Susan Jackson, who co-wrote The Flow of Sports with Csikszentmihalyi, puts a more secular spin on the same conclusion.  Though Jackson believes flow can be controllable, she would agree with Cooper that it cannot be achieved on demand.  “However, we can set the stage for flow by firstly being aware of what the flow state is...and then focusing on the factors that facilitate flow for a particular athlete.”

            Jackson’s emphasis on the individual athlete’s flow touches upon the interplay between spirit and an athlete’s emotional life which, in turn, it deeply dependent upon an athlete’s environment, personal beliefs, and shared cultural values.  All contribute their part in creating a space in which the athlete is free to excel.              

 A whole industry of performance gurus claiming to know the one true path to The Zone has sprouted up in the last decade as athletes strive to reach peak performance.  But in my book and documentary we discover there is no one secret formula.  The Zone requires a complex intersection of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements that, when attained, create in the athlete a security and confidence to personally identify with excellence.  Pia Nilsson, former European team Solheim Cup captain, sums up our findings when he speaks of Tiger’s female equivalent, Annika Sorenstam: “Annika has given herself permission to be great.  It shocks people, being so bold.  But it’s crucial that you see yourself doing something exceptional, so that when the time comes, you don’t bail out.  Because you feel you belong there, you stay in the zone.”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Spirit of your calling is not only in sport

Somewhere in the struggle to explain the seemingly inexplicable, “The Zone” became the catch-all phrase to encompass the range of athletic ecstatic experience.  But “The Zone” does not explain the actual experience; it is simply jargon.  Whether one seeks the explanation in philosophy, science, religion, or some combination thereof, there needs to be an open forum on the issue if we are ever to understand The Zone. My book and documentary tackles this dilemma, brings the marginal back into the mainstream, and provides that elusive context athletes have been seeking.

            In the martial arts, warriors strive to reach the point where they react to their opponents instinctively, without thought to strategy or technique.  This is the essence of The Zone.

            Four years ago, according to Golf Digest, “a poll revealed that although elite players believed mental skills were half to 80% of the game, the majority said they spent less than 10 percent of their practice on them.”  This is why The Zone has for most athletes remained elusive.

            Many credit Mihlay Csikszentmihalyi and his best-seller, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance, with bringing The Zone into popular culture.  Csikszentmihalyi’s book coincided with – perhaps was a product of – a growing interest in Eastern philosophies and a weakening resistance to discuss the emotional and spiritual side of sport.  It wasn’t that athletes hadn’t experienced The Zone, only that there had been strong cultural barriers to admitting to its existence.

            Though these barriers have not been entirely dismantled, many of today’s great athletes are openly sharing the joy that is The Zone and their techniques for finding and staying within it. 

            Though the search for the perfect technique will rightfully always remain an essential element of athletic achievement, we now recognize this must be balanced with mental techniques that allow players to access their skills regardless of the environment or the state of play.

             To this end, meditative disciplines such as yoga, which emphasize extreme yet relaxed concentration as an antidote to distraction, were the first to be mined for techniques which could be applied to sport.  The list has since grown exponentially and now includes hypnosis and psychology (to unlock unconscious barriers), neuro-linguistic programming and kinesiology (to create more effective mind/body communication), creative visualization, and nutritional balancing, to name but a few.  These and other areas of interest are explored in Owning the Zone.

            The third key element, the spirit, is finally finding its way back into the language of sport.  The term “The Zone” itself, with its connotations of the supernatural (the “Twilight Zone”), is indicative of this trend.  Progressively minded coaches are now putting as much emphasis on players’ spiritual health as their physical fitness.  For example, legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson combines elements of Zen Buddhism with the ancient wisdom of the Lakota Sioux to create the most successful teams in NBA history. 

            It is spirit, in fact, that many would argue is the most important element in finding The Zone.  Developing a relationship with a higher power, however one wishes to define or envision this, is essential if athletes are to step beyond the limitations of their physical selves and into The Zone.  As Andrew Cooper writes, “Mastery of one’s craft...and the techniques of sports psychology can enhance one’s physical and mental abilities, but they cannot produce self-transcendence.  For if there is one defining characteristic of those moments of pure’s that it is effortless and unpredictable, a kind of state of grace...The golden moment cannot be produced through an act of will.  You can only prepare the ground for it to happen.  As one Zen master has said, ‘Enlightenment is an accident, but some activities make you accident-prone.’”  To enter The Zone one must be open to the experience; to understand and appreciate the experience one must acknowledge, and not fear, the unseen.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Always been there

We all have patterns fixed within us in the same way designs we can't scribble over or erase. By going back in time we can find what is timeless in us, what is enduring and not just ephemeral. We discover that we aren't just a particle but also a wave that starts out at sea. Right this moment I am looking out over the sea and really understand  how the whole universe is in us that we are not a part of the universe but it is completely in us and then we express it.

Calls (inner expressions) fit into these patterns, and they grow out of them. In a sense patterns are calls. They are what we have always felt the compulsion to do, for better or for worse, whether it is to say a certain thing, create or re-create a certain experience, serve a certain cause, or solve a certain problem.

They are where we have worn footpaths to and from issues in our lives. The dream that won't go away is a call. What is your calling?