Holism in Sports Coaching:
Iconoclasses aim is to focus on the development of the ‘whole’ athlete (Holism) and encourage and enable athletes to reflect on the subjective, thrilling experience of sport, in parallel to the physical.
Increasingly the professional development literature in sports coaching encourages coaches to coach holistically. Yet the phrase ‘holistic coaching’ is mired in ambiguity and has the potential to become meaningless.
As an ‘ordinary, everyday’ coach, I believe we need a general understanding of the term holism, which is addressing the ‘whole’ person (more than the physical which has historically stymied athlete learning). Athletes learn verbally and non-verbally, and from hidden messages given in the sport context. An individual’s growth and development accrue as a result of direct contact with people and encounters with various situations, regardless of exactly how the coach behaves or what the nature of the sport environment. An athlete’s interaction with any given environment brings about change and therefore any learning which occurs is culturally specific.
I would go one step further in suggesting that, like athlete-centred coaching, holism is individually based, but depends on the individual’s cultural context (his or her uniqueness). Holistic coaching is the ability to understand that cultural context, that is the ‘whole’ person and not be limited by finite labels on a scale.
Coaching humanistically is about enabling people be who they are. At “Iconoclasses” the encouragement of autonomy and freedom of athletes and addressing their ‘holistic’ needs: needs that are unlimited, dynamic and complex for each ‘whole’, unique person is paramount. The humanistic nature of coaching is part of the social world which is important to the dynamic nature of coaching. Contextual social factors play a major role in understanding coaching and learning, thus requiring an interdisciplinary approach.
Coaches are responsible for the well being of their athletes. However the coaching process is vulnerable to differing social pressures. The “movement experiences” in sport should be humanising in that they positively influence self-esteem, self-direction, independence and opportunities that can “express intense movement of joy and supreme well-being”. To attend to these individualised, holistic experiences coaches need to focus on the ‘whole’ person, one who has been socially constructed and has a personal, culturally-based practice and understanding. Coaching using an humanistic, athlete-centred approach is intended to cater for the diverse and dynamic human interaction.
Humanistic, athlete-centred coaching is about offering a supportive learning environment to help athletes’ growth and development, which requires thinking holistically about the athlete. Through holism we can offer the ‘human’ side of sport. The experience in sport is about being authentic, true to oneself, human in every way. Athletes have intrinsic experiences that express uniqueness. These experiences are based on holism, the ‘whole’ person.