What is inner game coaching? What is the inner game? Is coaching the inner game the same as any other type of coaching?
What is Inner Game Coaching?
A client’s inner game is made up of their thoughts, beliefs, motivations, feelings, and values. It is everything that is “inside” that causes actions. Being an inner game coach means that you are helping the client expand their self-awareness by seeing themselves more clearly – both how they are perceived by others and how they perceive themselves.
The Inner Game of Tennis
In 1972, a Harvard English professor, Timothy Gallwey, wrote a book called The Inner Game of Tennis. It really didn’t have any advice on tennis strategies or fundamentals, but it contained plenty of advice on the mental part of the game. It was published at a time before “sports psychology” entered our lexicon. But, it has endured as a widely-read self-help book for sports and beyond.
The Inner Game of Coaching
What the book taught its readers was to focus on the mental aspects of the game, and not on the actual mechanics – the way to hold a racket, swing a racket, etc. The same thing goes for coaching.
Coaches help clients identify goals and then help them create plans to reach those goals. The plans are strategies and fundamentals just like holding a racket. However, inner game coaching is more about getting inside the clients head and identifying their values, beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and motivations in order to help them more clearly clarify their goals, identify the obstacles that are preventing them from reaching those goals, and to work with their inner mental workings to help them get the life they want.
Clients Have Two Selves and the Inner Game Attempts to Connect These Two Selves
Self One is that inner voice that directs clients – it is often filled with fear, tension, and anxiety. It prevents us from taking chances and risks. Self Two is the part that dreams and thinks of goals – this self is where the full potential to learn and perform resides. Inner game coaching attempts to create a bridge between these two selves and then works to help get the client to move into the second self.
Inner game coaching doesn’t attempt to completely eliminate fear, tension, and anxiety. These are all emotions that help us make wise and timely decisions. But, coaching the inner game means that clients can balance these two selves, and place fear, tension, and anxiety in the proper context.
Working the inner game means that clients can think of fear, tension, and anxiety more like guideposts and less like obstacles.
The Inner Game Can help All Coaches and Clients
Though we often think of improving the inner game in a sports context, inner game coaching can work in all areas of coaching. From executives who need to understand organization goals and dynamics to individuals who need to ameliorate their own inner game to get the life they want, coaching the inner game is an important part of any coach’s toolbox.
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