Hi all, The other day I was going through some material and I came across a client testimonial I hadn't looked at for a while. After reading it again, I thought it might serve as a good example of how movement, learning and development can really make an impact and challenge what we see as possible in our lives. Obviously this is a testimonial that paints me in a good light and is specific to a 9 year old daughter, but my intention is that we see beyond that for the learnings can work for us in our own lives.
Scott. Background – Nicola has too much lateral movement in her hip, knee and ankle joints. This causes balance problems and has meant she has difficulty doing some physical activities and sports. Because of this, and also a general disinterest in competitive sports, she had a fairly negative view of sport in general and exercise specifically. Her attitude was of concern because she wasn’t enjoying her opportunities for physical activity and was getting resistant in even trying to participate at school or with friends.
Why personal coaching? We felt Nicola’s experiences doing sports etc were setting her up to look at sport and exercise in a negative way in the long term. We could see that she may grow up thinking that none of it was for her and therefore miss out on all the benefits of having a fit body as well as the social aspects of sports participation.
Session content and activities – Over time the content has evolved from being fairly sport specific to encompass a vast array of general physical activities with a variety of life skills thrown in as well. These changes have occurred almost naturally as Nicola has broadened her outlook on what sport and exercise are and how you use your body in your day to day life.
In the first few sessions Scott taught Nicola how to do the basic skills in soccer and football. This was an important step for Nicola as these were the sports being played at recess and lunch breaks. She needed to have an understanding of kicking, marking, handballing etc to be able to join in. Also, it helped develop a relationship with Scott.
The sessions were fun and Nicola for the first time was excited when she talked about a sport. Since those early days Scott has introduced a range of activities to challenge and support Nicola. Her balance issues have been continually worked on with Scott showing Nicola how to jump from different heights safely, how to balance on a log or traverse a brick wall, how to climb a tree, a post, a climbing frame. The sessions have also developed to challenge Nicola’s ideas on fitness with more emphasis on working harder, getting tired, recovering and going again.
Session design and contribution – This has been a collaborative effort over the time. To start the sessions were fairly structured with Scott following my suggestions (based on Nicola’s desire to learn how to play soccer and football). I think Scott was pretty quick to realise that Nicola needed more than that. She needed to learn what her body could and couldn’t do and she needed to learn how to use it.
The sessions changed as Nicola changed and developed. Scott would always review a session at the end to talk about what Nicola had done and learned, what he had learned about her and where he could take the next session to enhance those skills. I would contribute with my perceptions of Nicola’s progress and changing interests. Nicola would also discuss what she found fun, easy, hard, scary etc and what she wanted help to achieve. So it has been a collaborative effort, led by Scott, but with all of us contributing to the session design.
Changes to Nicola – Immense! Nicola was a child who had a very negative attitude to anything physical. Her first thought (obvious on her face before she would even speak) when looking at a child doing anything sporty or physical was “I can’t do that”. She was always extremely reluctant to try any new activity.
Some of this is her personality. She is naturally cautious in all her interactions in life. Now she embraces physical activities in a far more positive way. Her teachers have noticed a change. She jumps off walls for no reason, she will walk along a fence for the heck of it, and she swings around poles when we are out. We see such a change in her.
And it doesn’t just stop there. She used to be timid in the water. Didn’t want to put her head under. She hasn’t done much swimming because of an allergy to the chemicals in pool water. When we took her to swimming lessons for two terms in 2006 she progressed amazingly. She tried new strokes, built up her stamina, swam laps. We were truly amazed.
Prior to her starting the life coaching with Scott I had taken Nicola to swimming lessons and she had been reluctant to do anything. In fact, when I enrolled Nicola in the 2006 lessons I told the teacher that Nicola couldn’t swim, couldn’t put her head underwater, was a bit scared of trying to swim and would probably not want to follow any of her suggestions. I told her I just wanted Nicola to play, have fun and get used to the water.
I watched Nicola’s first session and she was attentive to the teacher, followed what she said and was swimming breaststroke up the pool in no time. She had never done it before. The teacher was obviously surprised because of my prior warnings. Nicola progressed three levels in less than two terms.
But it is not just in the physical sense that Nicola has more confidence and self-assurance. We see the changes in how she tackles life in general. She is just not so negative about herself. She still has moments of self-doubt. But then she will talk about when she was scared of trying something and then she did it and how she knows she can do things now.
She now understands that you can try something and fail but that doesn’t mean you will never be able to do it. She knows now that if you want to get better at something you can just practise and you will improve. She understands that all other children have had to learn how to do things. Nicola used to look at children doing various activities and think that they were born with that ability. Because she couldn’t do it she just thought she was unlucky not to have been born with that skill. Because she didn’t see them trying to learn she didn’t understand that everything is learned in some way. This was a huge breakthrough for her. And for us as parents. We didn’t know she thought that way. It was only through her finally being able to learn a lot of the physical skills that she understood.
This understanding has carried through into her thinking about all aspects of life. Any new skill, even just growing up, Nicola views as something that she can learn. I think she used to be a bit fearful of growing up because she didn’t think she was born with the right skill set. Now she knows she will learn those skills when they’re needed.
Relationships – An important part of this coaching journey that Scott, Nicola and I have gone on has been the building of the relationships between us. Nicola has enormous trust and respect for Scott. She will try new activities and challenges because she trusts Scott. She may still be tentative at times and scared to try something but she knows Scott wouldn’t ask her to do anything that she isn’t capable of doing. She is very enthusiastic about doing the sessions with Scott. She has always wanted to do them. She loves them. She usually finishes a session wanting to show me something that she has mastered or tried. She considers Scott a friend as well as a coach.
For me, I have learned so much about Nicola and our relationship dynamic through the coaching process. In talking to Scott before and after the sessions I have learned a lot about Nicola and also about myself, my expectations, prejudices etc. I look back and realise that there are aspects of my interactions with Nicola that I would like to change given a chance. However, that is not possible so I now try to use some of the insights I have learned from Scott to improve in the future.
I think that the coaching sessions that Nicola has had with Scott have had a profound impact on her and my relationship, on her self-confidence, on her physical abilities, on her life skills. It has been one of the most significant relationships that we as a family have formed in her lifetime.