A Holistic Approach to Coaching

When studying philosophy, it is important to try to relate the theories and concepts we learn to everyday life situations. We do not truly learn something until we can apply it to our own lives. Philosophical theories are what defines us as human beings, so it is very important to find a theory that we can relate to. For me, the view of the human person that I most relate to is holism. Holism looks as the mind and body of equal importance and, unlike dualism, it does separate these two separate entities. Instead of focusing on just the mind, a holist will look at how the mind affects the body and vice versa. I believe this to be the most complete theory of a person and it is the one I will use in future professional settings.

After I earn my Kinesiology degree, I will be in a career where I have to work with and understand people. Simply regurgitating information about the human body is not enough for me to be successful in my post-degree job, I must understand how to deal with people. Part of the problem with Kinesiology today, is that we focus too much on quantifiable factors and do not spend enough time on how to communicate with people through different situations. Just looking at medical evaluations is not enough to determine if an individual is completely healthy. We must learn to grow relationships with our patients, and find out information that science and medicine cannot show us.

A New York Times article explains this perfectly. In the article, Abraham Verghese explains a situation where a patient was brought in to take a CT scan to determine her difficulties she was having with breathing. When looking at the CT scan, the radiologist determined she had tumors in both her breasts. The problem was these tumors were already visible on her chest and the CT scans were not only unnecessary, but they also introduced her to radiation that could have made her cancer worse. (for more information on this article go to http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/opinion/27verghese.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). This shows us that we cannot rely on technology for all our answers and we have to understand the person from both the physical and non-physical if we are to understand them completely.

A field I have always been extremely interested is coaching. As a coach, you need to understand your athletes by their physical capacity and their mental capacity, so you can get the most out of them. If you don’t understand both of these factors, then you are going to put them at risk for failure or injury. A perfect real world example of this is the case of Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III. Here is a case where doctors have determined that his knee is 100% healthy from post ACL surgery, but you can clearly see that he is not playing like his knee is healthy. He is afraid to run for extra yards and he looks to be playing extremely cautious at times, as if he is afraid of hurting himself once again. This is a case of where his mind is clearly affecting his physical ability to play. We cannot look at his mind separately from his body because both need to be treated equally so that his mind and body move as one.


It is the responsibility of the coach to make sure the athlete is ready to play, both physically and mentally. The coach and athlete relationship is crucial to success for both parties. The athlete needs to trust the coach to get the best performance on the field and the coach needs to understand the athlete inside and out to set up his/her success. The relationship between Robert Griffin III and Coach Mike Shanahan has certainly not been without its fair share of drama. It is clear their communication with each other is weak, from their arguing on the side line to comments that Robert makes about his coach off the field. In an interview with ESPN, Robert Griffin said something about his coach that I found to be pretty shocking. In the interview, Robert states that as a player the coach doesn’t have to listen to him, but he has to listen to the coach (for more of this interview visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxw8AlQ8qlI). To me, this clearly explains why Griffin was playing in a playoff game when he clearly wasn’t healthy enough to play and why he is playing now. He is either too scared to tell his coach that he isn’t 100% or his coach simply is not listening to him or care enough to ask him how he is feeling. For a holistic relationship to work, Robert Griffin III must be able to express to his coach that his mind is not caught up to his body, otherwise he will be put out on the field for further risk of injury.

The question becomes: How do we use holism in a practical setting to help out athletes post-injury? I think the answer to that is clear; we must treat the mind and body as if they were both injured and make sure both are healthy before playing an athlete. Successful rehabilitation includes treatment of the physical and non-physical person. Characteristics of non-physical treatment include the athlete’s belief in the efficiency of the treatment, a social support system for the athlete and the athlete’s orientation towards task related goals in his or her sport. Also, the athlete must work towards getting rid of negative or counterproductive mindsets (for more information on the mind-body relationship see: http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zwc-YNnho0sC&oi=fnd&pg=PA157&dq=holism+and+athletes&ots=A44OMtf7Bi&sig=LJ5tRJLf4cTxd-J7VEV5t93rHkU#v=onepage&q=holism%20and%20athletes&f=false). Coaches need to be there for the athlete in all the steps of rehabilitation and offer all the support they can. It is important to realize that it is not only their body that is damaged after an injury, but their mind too. A holistic attitude tells us that both need to be complete if the athlete is to achieve success again. Understanding this holistic theory is something that would greatly benefit me if I were to become a coach.


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