Coaching the Executive Athlete

So everyone is familiar with the role of a sports coach.  They help the athlete be the athlete in mind, body and soul.  They focus on physical development, skills development, psychological  and emotional development, moving the athlete forward.


The coaching profession was born from the initial sports coaching concept and the core principles have been fully translated to developing the Executive Athlete.  Luckily for both top sports people and Executives and Leaders, the coaching profession has developed itself and has a deepened understanding and techniques to apply.

Tim Gallwey’s book “The Inner Game of Tennis” in 1974 related to a more psychological approach to peak performance. He stated that the opponent in one’s head was greater than the one on the other side of the net.  Before the tennis player has even got on to the court, he may already be beaten.  He may know the skills, the techniques and the rules, but he has been beaten by the inner player.

This is no different to anything we do in life, whether it’s finding love, applying for a job, managing the board or selling a product.  Our saboteurs come out to play.  Those saboteurs are only their to protect us and keep us safe, but they also keep us stuck, and unable to push ahead, succeed and excel.  You may recognise the following saboteurs in your own head, you may know them well:

  • Fear
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Poor concentration
  • Perfectionism
  • Self-consciousness
  • Anger
  • Expectations
  • and the list goes on

In the Performance Coaching International  article , it describes how the growth, need and desire for Business, Corporate and Executive coaching has evolved.  It beautifully demonstrates that coaching has always been in out history, whether it was the skilled workman passing on their skills to the apprentice or the village elder who gives wisdom.  The practice of “coaching” in business was outsourced to specific skills led training courses, which, although taught everyone how to do the job of an Executive or Leader, it didn’t help them understand how to BE an Executive or Leader, how to lead authentically.

Coaching today is for the high performer, top talent and those leading an organisation.

Executive, business or performance coaching can be simply described as helping someone to learn in order to improve their performance. It is usually a one-to-one activity and is not about issuing instructions but is about helping, showing, giving feedback, explaining and encouraging.

Coaching recognises that most development takes place on the job and that often real learning requires a demanding task or problem to be tackled. The process requires regular and effective contact between coach and client and a recognition that all sorts of occasions – ranging from a change in the clients job to gearing up for a specific project – may require this sort of coaching support.  It requires both the coach and client to be courageous.

The coach knows that the client already has the answers, but maybe deeply hidden, or maybe right there staring you in the face.  The coach is skilled in exploring where the solutions and answers are with the client, and help the client find their own strategies to bring the answers to life.

We spend so much of our time in our heads, analysing, applying logic and reason.  The coach helps the client listen to their gut.  What is the emotion there, what is your instinct.  The coach helps the client strengthen their instinct muscle and make decisions authentically and with purpose.

Whatever your role in life, sharpening and strengthening those muscles, using the full range of emotions and skills that are available to you, and getting to know those that are less familiar is only going to make you more successful in everything you do.