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Rethinking performance coaching

Updated: Oct 25, 2018





I am not a performance coach but I can tell you this. Mention performance in the same sentence as coaching and you’ll get a Marmite response which completely divides opinion:

  • all performance coaching is brilliant, the world of sporting wins and excellence is where you measure “real success", if you can see you can be it. Sorted.

  • all performance coaching is bullshit, it denies the intricacies of the unique individual, it overlooks a soulful way to work, it ignores emotions, at best it’s short-lived. At worst it’s dangerous. 

I’d like to reframe what we mean when we use the word performance. Tim Galley the tennis coach defines it like this.


Performance = Potential minus Interference.


Performance is removing obstacles and interference.

Noting causes interference like our own thoughts. We may feel comfortable talking about a meaningful goal but our “performance” suffers because negative thoughts and feelings get in the way.The obstacle that shows up more than any other is fear.

Healthyfear is useful and it is designed to protect us when it has a solid basis in reality- such as fear of falling, fear of injury (physical or emotional) and even fear of death.

With insight and purposeful reflection many underlying fears are exposed for the charlatans they truly are. Fear may be keepingus safe, but it also keepsus unchallenged, uncritical and unmoved. 


From the minute that we identify the fear, we weaken its agency to prevent change.Working with trust gives you the power to see where you have generalised and exaggerated your fears. It allows a new narrative to perform its work when we see for the first time that other options are available.


Performance is potential. 


Potential is the very opposite of getting everything perfect the first time around.

Coaching is about listening and bringing insight. The higher the quality of listening the higher the quality of the insight. The Latin root tells us that this means “to breath into “.

I would add - to breath potential into being. Intelligently working towards peak potential is deeply meaningful. Straining towards impossible perfection is not. One implies testing and trying, moving beyond what is easy in an incremental and courageous way. The other implies you only get one shot at it.


Performance is practising a gift.


By practising how to stretch beyond your comfort zone and becoming familiar what might have caused you panic - you build grit and resilience. When Malcolm Gladwell introduced us to his “10 000 hours theory” people interpreted this in a reductionist way. He was not simply saying that these hours always guarantee excellence in every gift. I believe he wanted to suggest that insight, skill, and - yes - even mastery often shows up when we our honour our gifts and fully commit to practicing our potential.

We are all practising something. All the time. Practices that acknowledges your humanity while stretching beyond out beyond your comfort zone will move you, sustain you and inspire you. 


How would exploring new practices with a coach change your performance today ?

© 2018 Cathie Jeannot. Website created by SoRoStudio