Of late, I have been reflecting on the state of sport and our collective desire to ensure it supports a holistic, healthy and safe experience for participants. As a result, I have found myself gravitating to podcasts, literature and essays that are expanding my worldview and having me question … well pretty much everything.
In 2014, I completed my Integral Coaching MasteryTM certification, which was one of the most grueling and exhilarating personal and professional experiences. This coaching journey liberated me and solidified my commitment to living out my personal values of courage, compassion, and community. It also strengthened my desire to expand the consciousness of humanity through my work in sport.
Looking back, I remember thinking that I now had the tools required to offer my leadership coaching practice, with a vision of providing Integral CoachingTM services to athletes, sport coaches, administrators and volunteers longing to find their way through a complex, and often depleting, environment. I began slowly … hesitantly … sharing that I was a certified Integral Master CoachTM and that I was open for business. Looking back, I congratulate the younger me for being so open to bringing something new to a sector I care so deeply about. It is this early conviction that has brought me to where I am today and I remain more committed than ever to follow my heart’s greatest desire, which is to be in service of others.
Here’s what I am inspired to share with my sport colleagues, friends and mentors. Sport needs all of us to bring ‘all of us’ to the table. We need to tap into the multiple intelligences that are available to us (head, heart, and gut), including the masculine and feminine energies that will help to bring more balance into our currently depleted sector. Sport needs for us to converge around a few core simple truths and in my humble opinion, it begins by equipping all leaders with the capacity to listen generously, to speak compassionately, and to extend trust.
So what does this look like in practical terms?
For sport coaches, we often speak to four quadrants or dimensions of LTAD: Technical/Tactical, Physical, Mental, and Emotional/Social. These four dimensions are critical if we are to serve our athletes well. Too often though, an inordinate amount of time is spent on the first two quadrants to ensure that athletes understand the rules, have the required skills, and the capacity to make better decisions at various stages of their development. I argue that more time needs to be spent enhancing the mental performance quadrant of an athlete’s development or the third dimension of coaching, so they can learn fundamental skills including visualization, goal setting, effective communications and maintaining focus. I am seeing more interest and support for my mental performance and sport psychology colleagues and there has been more appetite to include this modality into the coaching of athletes at all levels. The fourth quadrant speaks to one’s capacity to understand the range of emotions that we have access to, and how we can tap into these emotions so that it positively impacts our performance. Emotionally intelligent humans have greater capacity to navigate the unknown and are more present to what is arising within them. A greater sense of self then contributes to our capacity to be more present to others and in so doing, creates the space for deeper and more meaningful connections.
The four quadrants are essential to the holistic development of all people, including sport leaders – we need the technical skills to function in our jobs; we need the tactical skills to be able to make effective decisions; we need strong and healthy bodies to be able to carry out our work; we need to be better able to focus and clear the mind and manage by values so that we can lead with integrity; and we need to know and be in touch with our emotions so that we can be at peace and expand our capacity to work alongside others. As an Integral CoachTM, I have been working on all four dimensions with clients as we look to expand and elevate their own consciousness on whatever coaching topic has brought them my way. However, it is helpful to remember that these dimensions must be supported by a strong base and from this base flow our life history … the values, beliefs, and experiences that contribute to who we are. Beyond our brilliant minds, compassionate hearts and strong bodies lives a human being whose story includes a complex web of experiences, hopes, fears and needs. We must never forget that before we use models like LTAD or personality assessments like the Nova Profile, we must remember to honour and see the human being that stands before us.
So what is the 5th dimension?
A special note about the use of the prism to describe the 5th Dimension. In conversations with three colleagues, we spoke at length about what gets unleashed when people are connected at a deeper level. This connection is often facilitated through shared values and common purpose. The metaphor of a prism was inspired by these conversations and is meant to reflect the complexities of the human experience. The 5th Dimension Prism is a geometric shape that has a solid base with four congruent faces, all interconnected and working together to disperse and reflect rays of light into various colours. This 5th Dimension allows us to invite the light into, and then reflect it out into the world, in omni colour. This 5th Dimension speaks to the experience of being in relationship with another human being, expanding our capacity to transcend and include all that we are, on this journey of becoming all that we desire to be.
Last year I cemented my commitment to bringing more Integral CoachingTM to the world of sport as I believe that this form of coaching can support sustainable transformation. As sport coaches know, true mastery occurs when we let go of all that we know so that a deeper truth can emerge. Sport coaches know that athletes often achieve their greatest performance when they move beyond thinking about their performance and let go, becoming one with their performance. This “state of flow’ as renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes, creates the space for transcendence, and it is from this dimension that I am working on cultivating as an Integral Master CoachTM. This 5th dimension has many names – source, spirit, essence, metaphysical – and when in its presence, we are accessing a deeper level of knowing that comes from a place of deep trust. Having experienced this quality of presence from other mastery level coaches, it is like being in the presence of someone who has access to a wisdom so profound that you can feel within your core. Hard to find the words to fully describe the impact this has had on me, but I have been transformed as a result.
So how does one access this 5th dimension? I like to compare my coaching competency to the belt system in martial arts. Back in 2014, I attained my black belt in Integral CoachingTM and as all black belts know, the real work begins. It is as if we now have the physical, emotional, and cognitive literacy to begin to learn how to live the life as a black belt. There have been moments over the past few years when I have accessed this quality of presence (or 5th Dimension) … a state of transcendence. While these moments have been fleeting, their impact on the quality of the interaction between myself and others have been profound. We both know that something has occurred even though we don’t have the language to describe it. In those moments, I am able to ask a question that illuminates an aspect of the client’s way of seeing something that then opens them up to an entirely new dimension. This new frame of reference then allows for a questioning of assumptions and beliefs as part of the inquiry into self. The process of change then becomes facilitated as we become open to a new way of seeing the thing that has me feeling stuck.
In what ways might the 5th dimension contribute to a sector we are all passionate about? I offer the following practices as they have brought me great joy over the past several years as I continue to hone my skills as an Integral Master CoachTM:
- The journey within: It’s been one of the most humbling experiences for me to get to know myself more fully. I have had to let go of being perfect, being liked, being right … which has freed me up to move towards being in service of others. I read; listen to podcasts; listen (really listen) to others; take courses; try new things … all with a view of discovering more of who I am.
- Trust in something more: I have learned to trust the signals and to quiet the mind so that I have access to the wisdom that lives within. Beyond what I know to be true (my cognitive intelligence) and what I feel about something (my emotional intelligence), there is an even greater field of consciousness that awakens a deeper truth (somatic intelligence). Trusting in something more means that I pay attention to, and listen to the whispers that are inviting me to lean in. To do so, I engage in a daily mindfulness practice and also journal regularly as I believe that our words shape our worlds. This practice allows me to be open to and more trusting of self and others.
- Deeper connections: Having coached hundreds of sport leaders, sport coaches and athletes over the past five years, I believe we are all inter-connected. It is through our shared experiences that we can find deeper meaning and our higher purpose. I host and participate in peer to peer learning circles and find this to be one of the most humbling and exhilarating methods to build community.
- Let go, to let come: Of all my practices, this has been, and continues to be, my most challenging one. The act of letting go requires a heightened level of mastery that seems elusive on most days. Letting go of expectations, of fears, of longings, of thoughts, of assumptions, of beliefs … in order to be open to what might come. This level of mastery is a work in progress and admittedly, there is no end point. To be present to and accepting of what is unfolding in the moment, has been, and continues to be where I access joy.
My hope in sharing this blog is for sport leaders to feel supported, nourished and confident as we work together to manage through these uncertain and unpredictable times. For those interested in learning more about Integral CoachingTM and the impact it can have on your growth as a sport leader, please connect with me at DBL@sportlaw.ca.