'Iceberg' Coaching (What is the Purpose of a Coach)


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The purpose of a coach can often be decided by an individual’s past, an organisation or a governing body or through a job description. Take a minute and think what the true purpose of a coach is. What did your favourite coach do for you? What makes them a good coach? What did they provide you? How did they do it?


Cross and Lyle (1999) state that the central purpose of coaching is to improve performance in competitive sport. Jones, Hughes & Kingston (2004) agree with this idea saying that coaching is viewed as training and the attainment of physical skills. From these theories, one could assume that great coaches are considered so because they have in-depth technical knowledge and the ability to spot and rectify faults.


For those outside the coaching world it may appear that the purpose of the coach is to impart knowledge to individuals with less knowledge than themselves thereby improving sporting ability through advising, pointing out and correcting mistakes.


The forgoing may certainly be true and considered as one perspective of “coaching”. However, a counter to the knowledge or skill transfer theory is that there is more to coaching than meets the eye. One of my mentors once said to me:


‘Coaching is 80% feet off grass’


(Cassidy, Jones, & Potrac, 2008) believe that the purpose of coaching is to coach the whole person and not just the sport; they perceive that the purpose is to coach holistically. Mountrose and Mountrose (2011) define a holistic coach as a person who is on the path to soulfully creating a magical, balanced, and fulfilling life, who partners with others who want to do the same. He or she takes joy in clients’ uniqueness, listens closely to help them to explore their greatest joy and excitement, and motivates them to make their dreams a reality.


Hall (2012) agrees with the authors above and wrote that if coaching isn't holistic, it is not truly coaching. Coaching is a systemic approach to getting our brains and bodies to function at their best within all of the contexts within contexts that we identify as factors in our lives, factors that affect our success. Much against Kidman’s beliefs, many measure success on how many games or competitions are won.


Kidman (2011) believes that success is a measure of how well the athletes are performing – but this philosophy may also be viewed as how well athletes perform within their lives, backing up Hall (2012) ‘function at their best within all of the contexts within contexts that we identify as factors in our lives’.


For this, the coach needs a good understanding of systemic thinking, processes, and ways of interacting.


There are diverse mind-sets associated with the interpretation of coaching practice, and the purpose of the coach cannot be clearly defined (Nash, Sproule and Horton 2008). Coaching is clearly subjective and one could argue that the purpose of a coach is personal to the coach themselves, however just think of the iceberg.


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