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Similarities between Sport Coaching and Life Coaching

AUTHOR: Travis Whiteford
DATE: 3 May 2024

Coaching is a word that I originally associated with sports and the ability to impact others with your knowledge of a certain skill, be it a sporting one, or other. However, after diving head first into the Erickson world, and taking part in my first coaching course, I now have a completely new outlook on the word and its meaning.

I started the Erickson International’s  The Art & Science of Coaching Essentials and had the thinking that I would be picking up more skills that would allow me to instruct and tell people how to be better or improve in certain areas of their lives… I was incredibly wrong! 

Without diving straight into what I learnt in the course, I want to touch on the similarities between Sports coaching and Life Coaching. I have been coaching various sports for many years, and all ages too, from preschoolers to adults and have learnt a ton about coaching and myself, as well as my approach to people in all these years. 

Goal Setting

One similarity I have found between the two comes right at the beginning of the journey, this starting point is goal-setting. It has a different name in life coaching, however the creation of a clear goal in mind with a planned outcome and methods to achieve that outcome are tangible in both. For sports, I arrive at a session with drills and exercises thought out that will give me an outcome I am wanting from my team or players that I believe will drive them towards it and provide them the skills to be able to achieve the goal. Life coaching is similar in setting the outcome, the difference is that the client picks the end goal and the direction of the session, and from there it is my job to help guide them there, however using their knowledge and skills that they already possess. 

Motivation and Mindset
The mental side to coaching is prevalent in both sports and life coaching, both play a big role in changing the coachees view on their situation and their desired outcome. For sports, the focus is on building confidence and mental toughness in overcoming obstacles and roadblocks in their craft in order to win and hit their best. For life coaching the emphasis is on nurturing motivation, as well as managing setbacks and the outlook a coachee has when looking at these setbacks. The life coach helps to look at issues from a different perspective that allows for a growth mindset.

Strategies and Planning
Coming up with tactics, developing game plans and choosing strategic avenues are a big part of getting an advantage over the opponent. These strategies are similar to the different paths a coach can take a coachee on to help them take action and stick to plans to help them get their advantage over whatever obstacle or task they are faced with. Both show the skills of a coach in either field, to be able to adapt and prepare for situations that will allow for continuous improvement in all of these areas.

Communication and Feedback
Communication, communication, communication. I cannot seem to say it enough to the teams I coach. I drill the benefits and advantages of good communication in my teams and between my players, fully believing that any good team or player has communication as a cornerstone of their craft. I did not realize the other side of communication that life coaching taught me, which is listening. I learnt the perks of how good listening is as effective as being able to communicate a message. The active and empathetic listening life coaching opened to me was something I did not think to be as important for achieving success, however the importance of it in building trust, solid relationships and a positive channel for feedback is clear.

Teamwork and Collaboration

A big part of sport is the teamwork and cohesion between players, coaches and teammates that ultimately works in tandem to create the desired performance for results. Life coaching could be seen as a sole purpose or goal from one person, however the relationship and collaboration between coach and coachee plays a massive role in determining the success of a coaching relationship. If the coach can clearly understand and push the coachee into shifting perspectives and developing a solution-focused mindset, then they are much more likely to live a life that they desire.

Both sports coaching and life coaching have similar aspects that in the end both work to help a person or team into achieving what they are capable of. Although the word is the same, the meaning behind the two professions is more similar than one could first assume. I have a new appreciation for both trades and am thankful that both have been able to flow over into each other to provide valuable skills that can transcend the barrier between them.