Mind & Body Mastery for Sports, Music and Life – SAKHAROFF.COM

Once upon a time there was a stressed coach…

Well, sometimes you hear a voice through the daily press, which makes you react because you just can not afford not to comment. That was the case for me last week when I read an article in Politiken called “Coaching made for tennis – not for self.” The article’s point was that coaching leads to stress. The author Rasmus Willig bases his point on his reading of the book “Inner Game of Tennis” by Tim Gallwey’s, considered to be one of the fathers of coaching. Rasmus Willig is Ph.D., chairman of the Danish Sociological Association and lecturer at the Department of Society and Globalisation, RUC university in Roskilde.

Short summary: The author writes that tennis is a game with clearly defined rules – and a game to be won. However, there are no clear rules for life’s game – and the life’s game shall not be won, but lived. And there are no clear rules for the training of ‘self’. Ergo – the training of the self leads to fatigue – and beyond that – the critical position of coaching should lead to stress. Permit me to quote further with my own translation from Danish: “‘normal self’ is being split, to create a new ‘critical self’ that keeps track of the ‘normal self’… After several months of critical introspection the ‘self’ is exhausted. It has been messing around on itself and neither found talents, abilities or skills that could take physical form or substance and thus be turned into money… When tennis training is applied to practical life, it sometimes leads to a mental collapse. Perhaps it is time to legislate in the field of coaching?”

This article provides for some quite fundamental questions:
– What is the role of coaching?
– Is coaching always leading to stress?
– Is it possible to use an initial tennis training concept in everyday life?

Dear reader, I will not answer all these questions in this blog – I will just mark my absolute disagreement with the author of this article in terms of general understanding of the coach’s role.

Coaching leads to stress? Agree – but only with a bad coach… There are some other things that lead to stress – targets and goals set too large, inconsistent or incompletely formulated. These targets and goals create stress and maintain the person’s focus on the future instead of now – right in this moment. Much of the business coaching is driven by caring for bottom line – the money. The company’s management is under pressure from shareholders or board of directors – management is pushing the employees – the management pays for coaching of employees – coach is trying to prove that it can create funky results on the bottom line – coach “helps” the employee to establish “nice” personal goals – the goals are pressing the employee little more… and more – the goals resulting in stress – and for some also in the sick leave. Of course, all of the above is written in very broad terms – but doesn’t this apply to many companies, isn’t this quite close to reality? Are we talking about stress? How many companies work with the personal joy as the measurement factor – instead of setting an entire network of both personal, department and company goals and targets – and the sacred bottom line totally in control of everything?

Is there a difference between sports-oriented and other types of coaching? Is it the use of sport or tennis attitude that creates stress? Here I feel that the author has completely misunderstood the very essence of Timothy Gallweys thoughts.

One of Gallwey’s basic concepts, which he in all his books calls to learn is the practice of “quiet mind”. In other words, he calls for stopping the constant control and steering by head, which we in our western world are most accustomed and used to – and learn to trust your heart and body instead. Or I would rather cite him for saying “using both” in a balanced way – which he actually does 🙂

The root of Rasmus Willig’s “problem of coaching” may lay in the fact that Gallweys ideas are largely taken over by “programmers” (read NLP), which conceptually believe that we can control everything with our head – without having proper contact with our own mind and soul. Here is the kingdom where the head rules in much greater degree than after the initial coaching thoughts – the Inner Game, which I think more is about spiritual strength.

I do not use the term mental strength here, because I want to avoid that word mental gives associations to the head activity taking over – unlike the original ideas of Gallwey. Head activity leads to hurried mind – and further to doubting, worrying, calculating and totally steering mind. In contrast to the cultivation of meditative state of spiritual focus leading to the quiet mind – focused, deliberate, relaxed but focused – and primarily non-stressful. Why non-stressful? Because it has learned another of Gallweys main concepts that – in my opinion – make his ideas akin to Zen and Eckhart Tolle. Don’t try too hard.

My own reading of the Inner Game of Music and later the Inner Game of Tennis, gave me the inspiration to go further and deeper in using the natural help of the body – breathing, visualizing and focusing techniques – extensively both in music education, in tennis and in everyday life. I must say that my own practical results confirms fully that this holistic approach strengthens creativity and combat stress – for both children and adults.

Dear reader, try searching YouTube for Tim Gallwey and you’ll find a few video interviews attesting proving that this wise man is in a completely different place than the author of the aforementioned article.

Back to coaching. Are you stressed out by your coach? Well… take it easy.

1. Find another coach – your current must have misunderstood something.
2. Instead of aiming against targets and goals in the future – live in the moment.
3. Do not try too hard.
4. Do things instead of trying – and learn to appreciate even the slightest progress.
5. Feel your breathing calm down and feel weight off your shoulders …

And now for something completely different! Allow me to ask a rhetorical question.

I now let the Institute for Society and Globalization have a rest – but why don’t we learn our children that knowledge above already in school? Is it because it is less important than, for example learning fractions or woodworking a bird house project?

Well.. Take a deep breath before you answer 🙂



2 comments on “Once upon a time there was a stressed coach…

  1. jerzy
    April 12, 2010

    Har du sendt den til Pol?
    Jeg er – måske på en gammeldags(mands) maner – tvivlende om det store behov for kontrolleret udvikling , muligvis Fu*cked U* af mange virksomhedernes, som du også nævner fokus på bundlinjen.
    Der er kommet en bunke charlataner til faget fordi de kunne lugte blod, jeg mener money. Pekunia non olet.
    Jeg synes godt om Tolle ofrdi han giver gode værktøjer på en meditativ, “swingin'” måde.
    Skal vi ikke tage emnet op over en kop yougurt?

    mere end FB ven

    • sakharoff
      April 13, 2010

      Det er sgu en god idé – jeg sender det til Pol. Tolle er nede på jorden, det synes jeg er vigtigt i denne sammenhæng som kan desværre ofte fremstå lidt for “esoterisk” – uden overhovedet at være det. Og så har mr.Tolle noget på hjertet, det er ganske vist 🙂 Kop joghurt lyder godt – så skal det være med banan!

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