Coaching Wholeness

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There is a very simple way to differentiate between conventional and integral coaching programs. It is the inclusion or exclusion of the zone experience. Does your coaching program include performing in the zone, yes or no? A simple question, but one that upsets many coaches because it suggests that their approach to coaching is missing something, which it is, and there is no way for conventional coaches to reconcile the fact that their performance programs exclude the highest order performance experience known to coaching – the experience of performance in the zone.

You either coach it or you don't. Conventional coaches don't; integral coaches do. And if that sounds hierarchical, that's because it is. Growth and development are hierarchical. There’s no getting around that fact, but what we're talking about here is a "growth hierarchy" in coaching development, not a "dominator hierarchy" that says one coaching method is better than another. This is not a coaching contest; it's a signal that marks the emergence of a new coaching paradigm that is relational rather than mechanistic, nonlinear rather than linear, and the experience that marks the emergence of this relational coaching paradigm is the experience of the zone as well as the emergence of holistic, integral coaches who actually teach their athletes how to intentionally create the zone experience in their chosen sport.

This new wave of coaches is emerging all over the world, and these coaches have the zone experience as the centerpiece of their performance models. This does not diminish the importance of conventional and post-conventional coaching techniques, rather, integral coaching looks to include the best of all stages of coaching development while adding the zone experience to the mix. So integral coaching both includes and transcends previous stages of coaching development without negating or replacing them.

The evolution of coaching has always been an evolution of inclusion and transcendence. Conventional coaching includes and transcends pre-conventional coaching; post-conventional coaching includes and transcends conventional coaching; an integral coaching includes and transcends post-conventional coaching. So, yes, the evolution of coaching has always been that of a growth hierarchy, and that very growth hierarchy has been responsible for the creative advance of coaching into the novelty and the greater complexity that we see today. With that creative advance in coaching has come a simultaneous advance in sport itself. 21st-century sport is a far cry from 20th century sport and even farther from 19th century sport. The evolution of competitive consciousness has been part athlete and part coach in a dialectic relationship that leads ever onward in the pursuit of… of what? What is it that we pursue as athletes and coaches? What do we seek to find in this dialectic between player and coach?

One answer to that question is that we seek as athletes and coaches to find the Holy Grail of athletic performance: the peak performance state, flow, the zone. What higher goal is there for us to reach as athletes than the wholeness of our peak performance state? What higher goal as coaches than to coach our athletes to experience this athletic wholeness?

Wholeness has nothing to do with winning or losing, fame or glory. Wholeness has nothing to do with making money as a professional athlete; it has to do with peak human experience, a fully-potentiated connection between athlete and athletic environment; oneness with the whole. Both athletes and coaches have been searching for the secret to performance wholeness for as long as the human peak performance state has been recognized as "different" from our normal performance state. Those differences have been expertly analyzed and defined by conventional coaches and post-conventional sport psychologists in the hope that a better understanding of the component parts of wholeness would lead to the secret of how to produce it.

 It hasn't.

Scientific analysis of flow has heightened athlete’s and coach’s awareness of the flow state, but it has not revealed the underlying structure and process that produces the flow state. Nor will any "outside observation" of flow reveal its structure and process. That revelation only comes from an "inside observation." The zone’s structure and process are only revealed thro