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Peak Performance

CoachMagasinet har i samarbejde med Dansk Coaching Institut erhvervet denne eksklusive artikel, som er leveret og skrevet af Sir John Withmore. Coachmagasinet har valgt at bringe artiklen i dens originale sprog. Dette for at give dig fuldt udbytte af tekstens indhold, og oplevelsen af det
internationale særpræg artiklen har. God fornøjelse...

Sports coaching has for too long been based on the dominance of a reductionist approach - the insistence on analysing everything down to its basic components - and lines of authority between coaches ‘in the know' and those supposedly without knowledge. This approach goes hand in hand with the denial of the natural, the instinctual and the intuitive, and it has held back sports coaching in UK and elsewhere by 25 years. That is a large claim and a strong accusation to level at the sports establishment, but I will lay out the charge in this article and invite you in the process to question long-held beliefs, think for yourself, engage your emotions and make your own decision. In so doing, you will be putting into practice the very elements of good coaching that I contend are so undervalued and underused. The beliefs and assumptions that coaches grow up with are the very ones that undermine learning, performance and enjoyment. They can be illustrated by the following statements:

  • A person cannot learn a new skill without being told and/or shown by an expert.
  • If you try to learn something without expert help, you will develop bad habits.
  • Errors and bad habits can only be recognized and corrected by an expert.
  • There is a right technique for most activities, one that has to be taught.
  • Intellectual understanding is a pre-requisite of learning good technique.
  • Coaches must be experts in the particular sport or activity that they coach.

Of course, these are unlikely to be stated as absolutes in a debate, but it is in this absolute form that they underpin the position that the vast majority of coaches adopt, consciously or unconsciously. Though tempted by my emotions to scream that they are all wrong, to do so would be to fall into the authoritarian trap that I am challenging, so I will express it differently. It is my view that retaining such beliefs severely restricts our ability to be effective coaches. It follows, therefore, that most coaches - and that includes many who are renowned for their expertise and achievements - are not nearly as effective as they could be. Nor are they as effective as they think they are, for they only have for comparison the results of other coaches practicing along similar lines. Alternative approaches are not on their radar screens.

Coach education programmes need radical review

I believe that the fundamental psycho-physical basis of coaching as practiced in sport is flawed and needs to be challenged. I have no doubt that most coaches do the very best they can with the training they have: it is the governing bodies of individual sports and their coach education programmes that need radical review. The role and influence of the National Coaching Foundation, for example, has been disappointing because of its lack of understanding of the bigger picture. Change is made more difficult because academics, analysts and reductionists still dominate our broader educational culture. They will only evaluate interventions within the limits of their own outdated model.

‘Discovering that you can learn a new skill
without being dependent on an expert is thrilling'

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it could be said that an experience is worth two thousand! But let's start with the picture. I deliver programmes lasting 2-5 days for business managers on the topic of ‘coaching for performance in businesses` I make the theoretical case for what I call ‘new coaching', but at a certain point I show a seven-minute video (spontaneous and unscripted) of two beginners learning to hit a golf ball for the first time. One is being taught traditionally by means of technical instruction, and I am coaching the other without giving any instructions or even telling her how to hold the club!

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