Developmental coaching moves in two directions: vertically and horizontally. Vertical coaching development occurs as coaches move from one stage of coaching development to a higher and more complex stage of coaching development. Horizontal coaching development occurs as coaches move within their current stage of coaching development.
In my sport of tennis, horizontal development has gotten to the point where the game has been scientifically manipulated to a computer model that shows exactly how to create the greatest amount of power in your strokes. That’s awesome technology, but it doesn’t create the peak performance state. You can have all the power your body can muster but still play the game in your normal performance state. That’s great if you’re into developing horizontally as a player and a coach, but if you want to develop vertically into the next stage of coaching development, if you want to mature developmentally as both coach and player, then the developmental pathway of being open to and then awakening to higher states of performance consciousness need to be added to the developmental mix. Or to put this another way, I invite you to embrace the higher state of integral or “nondual” performance consciousness found in the peak performance state known as flow or playing in the zone.
It is right at this point in your development as a coach that you have to ask yourself whether this sort of maturation is worth it? Is it worth being open to the reality that this has nothing to do with how much power you can add to your athlete’s performance. Rather, that this maturation has to do with how much consciousness you can add to your athlete’s performance.
Sounds woo-woo, I know, but there is nothing woo-woo about coaching flow when you see it from the perspective of vertical stage development. Think about what’s missing from most coaching programs, especially if they are high-performance coaching programs. Do they include the peak performance experience of flow? Do they include performing in the zone? If they do, then they are indeed high-performance programs. But if these high-performance coaching programs do not include the peak performance state of flow, then how can they call themselves high-performance programs when they exclude the highest performance state of all? They might be awesome programs, but without “state training” in the peak performance state, they are incomplete programs, and any chance for vertical stage development is lost in the shuffle of horizontal scientific technology.
Fortunately, vertical development through the stages of coaching consciousness does not come to a screeching halt with conventional coaching, although many successful conventional coaches would suggest otherwise, and have the championships to prove it. How much higher do you need to develop as a coach if you are already at the level of championship coaching? Aren’t championships what high-performance coaching is all about?
Of course, it is! And as long as the objective of your coaching program is to create champions, then there is no need to change what you are doing and you can continue to be very successful as you continue to develop horizontally. But if you want your coaching program to develop vertically, then it will need to transcend winning with the addition of something novel and more complex. That “something” novel and more complex lies at the heart of the next stage of vertical coaching development. It’s called the Integral Stage of development and it includes the very best of conventional coaching excellence, including championships, but then transcends conventional coaching with the addition of the missing developmental pathway of awakening to higher states of performance consciousness. In other words, Integral Coaching transcends and includes Conventional Coaching, and it does so by including, for the first time in the history of coaching, the developmental pathway of waking up to higher states of performance consciousness by awakening to flow and conscious flow coaching.
Bottom line, in order to continue your maturation as a coach, I suggest you need to be open to your own development as a human being, as such openness is an invitation to think outside the box, rather than toss the notion of vertical stage development and conscious flow coaching into the trashcan of goofy coaching ideas that are too far outside the conventional box to be of any use to you as a coach.
Integral coaching is definitely outside the box of conventional coaching. In fact, it’s in a different box altogether. The integral coaching box is radically different from the conventional coaching box because these different boxes are actually different “stages” of coaching development that not only have radically different developmental objectives and values but also have radically different coaching paradigms.
Briefly, conventional coaching is “component coaching.” It is based on an underlying paradigm of linear mechanism that believes the dynamics of the parts of the performance determine the behavior of the whole performance. Thus conventional coaching reduces performance to its component parts and by improving the dynamics of the parts of the performance players will improve the behavior of the whole performance. The fancy name for this coaching paradigm is “linear system dynamics.”
Integral coaching, by contrast, is based on an underlying paradigm of nonlinear holism that believes the dynamics of the whole performance determine the behavior of the parts of the performance. Thus integral coaching looks to the “state” of the performance as a whole, parts included, and by improving the state of the whole performance players will improve the behavior of the parts of the performance. Fancy name: “nonlinear system dynamics.”
In short, conventional coaching sees the parts as primary to the whole, while integral coaching sees the whole as primary to the parts. They look like opposites, but their oppositional nature can also be seen as complementary: one coaching approach supplies what the other coaching approach lacks, and vice-versa. For instance, linear coaching is great for teaching sound biomechanics, strategic awareness, mental toughness and emotional control. All parts of the greater whole. But linear coaching fails miserably at teaching the state of the whole performance.
Conversely, nonlinear coaching is great for teaching the state of the whole performance, i.e. the flow state, playing in the zone, the human peak performance state, but nonlinear coaching all too often fails at teaching the individual parts of the performance whole.
So we’ve got one approach that’s great for teaching the parts but fails at teaching the whole, and one approach that’s great for teaching the whole but fails at teaching the parts.
Question: what would a coaching program look like if it combined these oppositional coaching paradigms to co-create a complementary coaching whole? A coaching program that uses linear coaching to teach the parts of the performance and nonlinear coaching to teach the state of the whole performance. With a complementary, integral approach, your coaching program could produce a biomechanically sound, strategically aware, mentally tough, and emotionally controlled player who walks onto the field of competition and intentionally shifts into a state of flow? Now that would be a truly complete high-performance coaching program!
Here’s another question to ask yourself as a coach. If your players are winning championships by competing in their normal performance state, imagine what would happen if they competed in their peak performance state? What would be different if they won the championship by competing in the zone? The trophy is the same. The championship is the same. So what’s the difference between winning the competition while in their normal performance state versus winning the competition while in their peak performance state? What’s the difference between winning in the norm and winning in the zone?
If the only objective is winning, then you win either way. A trophy is a trophy is a trophy, regardless of your performance state. But if your objective transcends trophies, if your values go beyond winning, then the competition itself takes on new meaning. No longer is it a competition between rival egos, me against you, my team against your team, but rather the competition provides a vehicle by which the ego is transcended and you awaken to a more authentic you. And, by the way, winning becomes a by-product of peak performance in the zone. The bondage and limitations of the ego are left behind for the freedom and fullness of your authentic self that awakens in a state of flow.
You are no longer competing against an opponent, but rather competing with that opponent to co-create and maintain the higher order reality of flow. And, by the way, you also increase your likelihood of winning. However (and here is the counter-intuitive part of this horizontal-vertical coaching equation), competing in the zone has nothing to do with winning a new trophy and everything to do with creating a new reality. And here’s a bonus: not only can flow reality be consciously created on the field of competition, it can also be consciously created on the field of life. More on that in another article.