Taking Coaches To The Next Level - What I Learned From Coaching the Coaches

Published October 7, 2019

Earlier this year I completed an eight-month coaching journey that completely transformed my coaching practice. As an Integral Master CoachTM, I have been longing to support sport leaders in their leadership development journeys and have been working since 2014 to offer an exciting menu of personal growth experiences including offering the Nova Profile, hosting the Enneagram workshop, partnering with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport in offering the Sport Leaders Retreat, and so much more.

However, this most recent experience with Hockey Canada has left me feeling grateful, connected and more determined than ever to elevate the consciousness of humanity through my work in sport.

Let me share a little about the program scope so you get a sense of what was offered. Through the careful stewardship of Mel Davidson, long-time Hockey Canada coach and general manager of the women’s program, the journey began back in 2015 when she approached me to provide some coaching support to two of her most promising coaches. Over a 10-month period, I worked individually with both Laura Schuler and Lisa Haley on a personal leadership topic that was important for them to lean into. Our sessions were done over GoTo Meeting and we completed our work together having developed a deeper appreciation for the importance of cultivating greater emotional intelligence, fostering heightened self-awareness, and challenging ourselves to lead in a manner that aligned with our values. This involved daily practices and body work. It was grueling. This experience, which was supported in part by the Coaching Association of Canada, created an inviting environment to take our work to the next level. Both Lisa and Laura shared that this experience had transformed them as individuals and had provided them with meaningful and useful tools that they could use on the ice with their athletes and off the ice with their peers, family and friends.

Sometimes great ideas need time to take root before they can flourish. This is one of those times.

This time last year, Mel and Gina Kingsbury, the new Director of Women’s National Teams, invited me to work with eight of their brightest female coaches by creating an engaging learning environment. The design of the program was a powerful mix of individual work that included taking the Nova Profile, self-reflection exercises, daily practices, and bi-weekly individual integral coaching sessions. Each coach worked on identifying a leadership topic she wanted to explore more fully. “I have loved every moment of my interactions with Dina and the integral coaching she provided. I was able to get to know myself better through the Nova Profile. With meaningful conversation, I was able to determine exactly which areas of my coaching needed work and further improvement. It is easy to coast along when you feel comfortable. It is much harder to learn how to have difficult conversations with people who act differently or have different values.  I now feel aware of my own biases and feel more empowered to have courageous conversations. I will continue to work on being a generous listener knowing how much of a positive impact it can have,” shared Olympian and coach Caroline Ouellette.

Once the individual coaching sessions were complete, we created two, peer to peer learning groups that was supported through the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Olympic CO-OP Program. These monthly sessions provided each coach with an opportunity to lead the discussion, often sharing what she had discovered during her one on one coaching sessions and provided a powerful opportunity to solve problems, while strengthening their relationships with each other. “Dina has given me a whole new perspective on coaching, leading and the impact communication has on relationships and athletes. Every day I find myself more mindful in how I interact with my athletes, other coaches and mentors throughout the hockey world. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with an integral coach and humbled by the growth and newfound perspective on leadership and performance in elite coaching,” shared Olympian and coach Delaney Collins.

How was I transformed as a result of this work? I realized how critical it is for us to have these kinds of conversations. To effect sustainable change, we need to feel that we are not alone. An integral coaching program can provide leaders with the support they need to tackle a topic they’ve been longing to see a shift in, head on. They have an accountability partner that they can lean on when the going gets tough. They can learn and grow from each conversation, as these conversations provide real life training on how to ask powerful questions, how to actively listen, how to breathe, how to let silence work her magic. I will forever be grateful to the 10 women who dared to dream big by saying yes to the invitation to learn, share, and grow. “I’ve attempted trying to put into words countless times what impact integral coaching has had on me. I always end up at a dead-end. I guess that says a lot right there. The experience of having Dina as an integral coach, especially at such a key time in my journey, has led me down such enriching pathways. It’s given me a much deeper understanding of who I really am as a person, coach, leader, wife, mother, daughter and so on. I can now use my strengths in stronger ways, and I’ve discovered strengths I didn’t know I even had. It’s made me more mindful of my tendencies and built my awareness of ‘self’ in moments of adversity. I now know I can navigate waters that seemed too rough for me to manage in the past. I’ve got stronger relationships with the people I care about, like my players, colleagues, family and friends. They’ve all enjoyed getting to know the real me much better. Life-changing doesn’t do it justice,” shared Olympic and university coach Lisa Haley.

With the layers of complexity at our doorstep and multiple expectations from stakeholders, I invite all of us to pause, self-reflect, breathe, and consider what the next step ought to be for our development as leaders. Trust whatever bubbles up. There’s wisdom in those inner musings.

For more information on integral coaching services, drop me a line at DBL@sportlaw.ca.

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