Coaching Case Study By Agnes Dr. Darida
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
My client, Briana is a 14-year-old athlete. She and her parents asked me to help her in her mental preparation for tournaments a few months ago. We have worked on self-awareness, self-esteem and self-confidence issues, managing stress and negative thoughts, handling success and failure.Briana made a lot of progress both mentally and in her tournament results, however, she hasn’t reached a breakthrough.
A few days ago, Briana sent me a message. She asked me to talk after a lost bout where she was beaten by someone who she could have beaten easily.The following two days, she had 2 more fencing events and wanted to let go of her negative feelings.
Things like this happened to her before, and in most cases, she was not able to get back to her usual positive mindset.After making some mistakes, she got into a downward spiral and got carried away by negative thoughts and emotions. And of course, she lost the bout even if she was the better fencer.
We scheduled a short phone coaching session for the same night.
When she told me her story, I had the impression that she really needed to feel heard and understood without being judged (Powerful Listening), because she already judged herself and so did her parents and her coach, too.
I asked her about what exactly happened, she said: “I started fencing weird. I knew what to do, but all of a sudden I changed what I was doing, I changed what worked before.” She could not really figure out what happened, and she couldn’t answer when I tried to explore what thoughts and feelings she had that led to that change of behaviour. She said that she was too relaxed for a while and sure to win anyway, then got too nervous and started freaking out.
I inquired about her key learnings after this event. Her answer was “Stay focused and be ready all the time because you never know what’s going to happen.”
When I asked her how she was feeling, she said: “I was really upset, and I’m still upset losing to the last seeded person.”
I asked if she was interested in doing a visualization exercise and she said yes.
I told her to close her eyes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine starting to inflate a balloon. I asked her to blow all her negative feelings into that balloon until there is nothing more left and just let the balloon fly away.(This is a great breathing exercise:inflating a balloon forces you to deep-breathe, and at the same time, it helps let go of your negative feelings. Besides, just like other visualization exercises, it activates the creative right hemisphere of the brain.)
I could hear that she felt a bit better, but she was still quite low of energy.
I tried to figure out what was still missing but she had no idea. She knew that she needed to forget about what happened, but the mere fact of knowing that was not enough.
I asked her: “What about forgiving yourself? Do you think it would help?”
This question seemed to be the real breakthrough during the 30-minute coaching session.
We both felt that this was what she needed most: forgive herself to be able to let goof what happened.
We did one more visualization exercise. I asked her if it would feel good to imagine hugging herself. She did it with pleasure and could do the exercise easily.
After that, she sounded much more energized and optimistic, and we finished the call.
This short phone coaching seemed very effective.
I was extremely proud of Briana, because the next day, is spite of losing an easy bout in her group in the morning, she could get back to her positive mindset and finished Top 8. Two dayslater, at a junior event (for ages under 20) she won the gold medal, although she is only 14.
It seems that she was really able to forgive herself and stopped punishing herself for former mistakes.
If I would start again or had less time, I would focus more on how she felt about herself, how to forgive herself and let the negative feelings go, instead of analysing too long what happened.
The top 3 things that I learnt from this experience:
- Trust your intuition and listen to your gut.
- If you feel that there is something more there, don’t be afraid to dig deeper.
- The energy level of a client tells more about how they feel vs what they say.(If they really feel better, you will hear it.)