Coaching Case Study By Sabine Schoellhorn
(Transformational Coach, JAPAN)
I truly believe we meet the right people at the right times in our lives. It was early 2013 when I met my first coach. I was in the middle of a career transition. The coaching helped me to find my true passion in my professional and personal lives. Later I began to realize I did want to support people to find their true selves and achieve their goals. Through the coaching experience, I decided to start my ICA journey to become a certified coach.
I was introduced to surfing when I moved to Japan 15 years ago. Now you can find me, almost every weekend at the ocean, in the summertime as well as in the winter. Being in the water makes me feel blissful, at peace, and in the flow. I can be myself when I am in the ocean. Those things I struggle with a dissolve on the beach. I sense that my body, mind, and soul are cleansed and purified during my times in the sea.
Surfing and coaching are a big part of my life and close to my heart. Below I will share what I learned about myself and how surfing relates to coaching through the 18month journey of becoming a certified coach at ICA.
How surfing has supported and influenced my Coaching Journey
I will use the GROW (Goal-Reality-Options-Will) model to share how surfing supported my growth and gave me the confidence to live in the flow.
During a standard coaching agreement, the coach identifies what the client would like to achieve as an outcome/goal at the end of the session. We “explore what is important or meaningful to the client about what she/he wants to accomplish in this session” (Marker 2.3) and what “she/he needs to address or resolve to achieve what she/he wants to accomplish in the session” (Marker2.4).
My goal is to become a confident, effective coach as I fulfill the requirements of the ICA program. I want to be a coach that has a good connection between my heart, head, and gut. I listen to my intuition. I get out of my comfort zone when necessary and ask direct and powerful questions. I do all this in support of my client.
How does this relate to surfing? For me, surfing is similar to coaching. To be a good surfer means to be in the flow. In the flow, a state I am not thinking. I follow my intuition, feel the energy of the waves, and make conscious choices regarding which waves to catch. I believe that life is like the waves of the ocean. There will always be ups and downs. It depends on how I view the world. I can see the downs as failures or I can see them as opportunities to get back up again and to develop my personality further. It is like seeing the glass as either half-full or half-empty. It’s up to our perspective. The amount of water we observe in the glass doesn’t change. Our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings determine how we judge the water in the glass. I am generally a glass-half-full personality type, but I had to address my ups and downs during my coaching journey.
In my peer coaching sessions, I learned that I needed to address how to be in the flow and trust the process. This is true in the coaching sessions as well when riding a wave in the ocean. That natural flow of surfing is similar to moments in coaching when I am present with the client. In those moments I am surfing with my clients to move towards their goal similar to catching a beautiful wave. In the flow state, I connect with my intuition and my confidence is enhanced. Coaching from the flow state is a source of strength for me as a coach.
In this step of the coaching session, the client recognizes their current reality. The coach has the goal of the client in mind. The coach “shares what she/he is noticing about the client and/or the client’s situation, and seeks the client’s input or exploration “(Marker 8.3) to ensure the client is “learning in the session about her/himself “ (Marker 8.2).
In every ICA lesson and peer coaching, session I learned to look deeper beneath the surface of my personality. I discovered and explored my thought patterns, beliefs, and values and learned to truly understand myself. I noticed my deep-routed fear during surfing when I couldn’t feel my feet touching the ground. I was totally out of my comfort zone. It gave me a great sense of anxiety and my body became very stiff when I wasn’t able to balance on the board. I have great respect for the ocean and I know it can be dangerous when I am not fully aligned during my surfing. There were many times where my anxiety took over and I hectically paddled back to the shore crying for no particular reason. The tears gave me a great sense of relief. Even though I had these experiences, you could never stop me from going back into the water to face my fear again. The fuel of my passion during those times came from feeling the momentum of the wave giving me bliss and peace. One day I remember seeing a beautiful rainbow after a sudden and heavy rainfall. It made me cry again, this time out of joy. I still remember that wonderful feeling of being connected to nature. I had no thoughts only the sense of knowing that the universe was on my side. This became a mantra for me and my coach during my coaching journey and possibly for the rest of my life. I felt extremely peaceful sitting on my board looking at the never-ending sight of the blue sky and ocean. I recall this feeling whenever I doubt myself to get unstuck.
I doubted myself also during my coaching journey. I was thinking so hard to come up with the best questions to move the client forward in the sessions. I put the pressure on me to create a break-through conversation every time. I had to take a break from peer coaching for a while, just to notice how much I pressured myself. I was out of balance between thinking and feeling. I was not able to trust my intuition. I was out of the coaching flow state. I felt so frustrated with myself. I didn’t see any progress in all the peer coaching practices. This awareness about my feelings, even while out of my comfort zone, taught me to not fight it. I learned to accept my current reality. When I returned to peer coaching again, I was vulnerably sharing my situation. It was through sharing my struggles and fears in those sessions that I gained self-awareness. The peer coaches helped me by “sharing observations, intuitions, comments, thoughts and feelings” (Marker 7.1). I gained clarity as to where I am now and where to be in the future. My feelings of doubt came from fear and the drive for perfection. There is no such thing as being perfect. It’s all in my mind, similar to how one can view a cup of water as half-empty or half-full. I was viewing myself as a coach as being half-empty. I let my need for perfection overwhelm me rather than making an active choice to focus on what’s going well and working towards improving my skills step by step.
After the reality is explored and more awareness is gained the client can realize that they have many options to resolve their issue. For my exploration, I noticed that fighting my insecurity about myself didn’t help me return to the flow. The peace I made with my current situation supported me to reframe my perspective. I was eager to continue following my goal to become a confident coach. In this phase of my ICA journey, I noticed how much active listening and coaching presence contributes to helping clients gain awareness about different options that weren’t previously in view.
The client has their life remote control in their hands. They decide which choices to make during their coaching journey. Active listening paired with coaching presence empowers the coach to hear “the clients’ concerns, goals, values, and beliefs about what is and is not possible”and“confidently shifts perspectives and experiments with new possibilities for own action”.This made a big difference for me in my life. I suddenly felt I have control. With this recognition, I learned that control is a choice.
In the ocean, you can choose which waves you want to ride and which ones to pass. It takes keen observation of the wave and knowing the timing when to paddle and when to stand up. If you paddle too far ahead, you can get washed up into what I call the “washing machine”. You get swallowed up by the wave and it turns you upside down. This experience can be dangerous because you may hit yourself with the board. When this happened to me I went straight back to the beach. I took a few breathes and let my fear out in the form of flowing tears. Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer inspired me after losing an arm in a shark attack. She quickly found her way back to professional surfing. She said “courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.”Fear never stopped her and it doesn’t stop me. Instead, I addressed my fear and got back on the board. I realized that my fear showed up as a doubt of not being able to improve myself. After realizing this, I re-framed my perspective to not let any kind of fear in the form of doubt take over in my life. Now when I get caught up in the washing machine, I laugh. I learned to slow down, trust my intuition, and wait for a better wave.
The same goes for coaching. When I get stuck as a coach I take a deep breath and trust that a good powerful question will come when needed. Surfing and coaching are flows. I truly believe that when I am present in the moment will make the right choice about selecting the wave and trust the coaching process.
After the current reality and the options are explored the client can now work towards their goals. They have the clarity needed and they are open to committing to achieve their goals. I call this step the creation phase. It takes focus and determination as fuel to move them forward.
My strong will to improve my surfing allows me to finally stand up on my board after over a year of trying. I struggled because I focused on how to stand up technically correct. I didn’t allow myself to feel the process at all. Finally, I let go of trying to do it in the right away and allowing the wave to lift me. I naturally stood up and glided on the surface of the wave to the shore. The feeling was indescribable. I remember how grounded I felt with both feet comfortably on my board. My body was filled with joy. I had a very big smile on my face. It was a shift from thinking I had to do it the right way to trusting myself and feeling confident in my abilities. This is an ongoing exploration of how I can continuously improve my surfing as well as coaching. I learned to be in the moment, to breathe, and to feel the wave as well as feel my body. I no longer have anxiety when my feet aren’t able to touch the ground. I can paddle further out with comfort, waiting for the right wave to come.
Having this awareness is the first step to induce the change of mind and take action. I gained confidence and I am now more adventurous and less afraid of trying something new. Today when I get caught up in the washing machine, I laugh and see it as a learning opportunity. I don’t beat myself up about it because it’s no longer a failure. I am kind to myself and I trust my abilities. Before I enter the ocean I have a routine of bowing and offering gratitude to the ocean that I can surf again today. When I finish surfing I say again thank you. This routine paired with a meditation on the beach helps me to align with myself and remain in the flow of the day.
This example shows how I learned to shift from over-thinking to feel to be more confident. Progress is achieved when I am open. When I trust my intuition I make better choices about which waves to catch. For coaching, I also have a routine. Before a call, I sit down fora short meditation. Breathing helps me to be fully present at the moment with the client. During my observed coaching, I was feeling lots of pressure to make the best recordings every week. In this struggle, I learned to trust myself. I became more confident about my ability to coach. The 5 weeks was a truly inspiring learning journey.
This case study is a summary of my 18-month journey with ICA integrated with surfing. Through this process, I gained great awareness of myself. I began to accept and show my true colors to understand and trust my intuition and become better at living in the flow. I believe that coaching isn’t only getting the client to their “one” destination of achieving their goals. It’s about the journey; it’s not about the destination. Along the process, the client is gaining self-awareness about her/his beliefs, thinking, and feelings and enables her/him to tackle and resolve any challenge that arises.
To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, “you can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf”.
The beauty of surfing is you realize that you can choose which waves to surf and which ones to pass. In my opinion, the same is true for coaching. The client gains awareness on how to perceive the waves in their lives, the ups and downs, and make conscious choices about where to focus their attention to reach the goals. The client has the remote control of their life in their hand making decisions about how to view life in a half-empty or half-full way. I am grateful that I gained so much awareness through my ICA journey. It has supported me to continuously improve myself as a confident coach. It is a never-ending story about how one can learn to develop themselves in coaching. I will remember to look at myself with kindness and be confident to follow my path to become a full-time coach. In this process, the surfing will continuously support me to keep trusting my intuition and being in the flow as a coach.
In conclusion, I would like to share my appreciation with my coach Michael. You showed me the benefits and the true values of being coached. I will never forget how my life has changed being coached by you. You helped me to make my decision to become a coach myself.
I also would like to thank my mentor Paul. Our conversations energize and encourage me to continue to follow my dreams using your techniques. They help me to take care of my body, mind, and spirit.
A heartfelt thank you to Hiroshi for introducing me to surfing. Itis for you that I now love surfing, too. I understand what surfing means to you! I hope that one day we can surf together!
I am grateful for being part of the ICA family. Thank you to all the wonderful staff and lecturers, especially Sunita for all your feedback. I learned so much throughout the 5 weeks in your observed coaching classes.
Thanks to all my peer coaches. You helped me to gain awareness and learn about myself. I truly believe you all came to me at the right time in my life. I look forward to the learning path with you altogether.
With lots of love and appreciation!