Coaching lessons learned from Roger Federer, Bandler, and Milton Erickson

You may have been watching Roger Federer playing with a sweet forehand on the tennis court, game after game. But then, have you ever seen Federer’s coach? Do you know the coach’s name? Now matter how often I have viewed a match with the tennis champion, it has been very seldom and unusual to get any information about a coach.

In this field, on this court Federer is the main person, nobody else. This remains absolutely clear all the times. Nevertheless it is a known fact that Federer makes regular use of coaching support. What did I learn from Federer’s use of coaching for my own coaching practice?  Lesson 1: The coach takes a back seat. He acts invisibly for external observers, and Lesson 2: For top players and executives coaching is applied for specific issues or clear objectives only. Lesson 3:  The world’s top sportsmen and the best leaders are using coaches for prevention as well as an instrument to stay among the best.

In contrast to such an approach my primary teacher used to collect the worst mistakes the students had made in essay writing. The idea was to facilitate the children to learn from fault finding.  In class 5 for example in an essay I had mistaken manager with teenager. Of course we laughed about this wholeheartedly. But did we learn how to write correctly this way? Richard Bandler is one of the founders of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). In his exceptional writings he opened my eyes for focusing on what really works, on studying what the best do instead of analysing the mistakes of the low performers. Learn from what is working not of what is not working. When, for example, because of fear the motivation level is declining before an examination, it is useful to find out under what circumstances the same person was able to cope with and overcome similar fear and lack of motivation, for instance while riding a horse. Therefore Lesson 4: Learn from what is working well already for you or at least for somebody else.

Maybe you have already discovered that the things we want to happen do not usually happen the way we are pushing them to happen. But then, the moment we let go the previously desired outcome, all at once it flies back to us. Milton Erickson, one of the most exceptionally gifted therapists of the twentieth century, observed that people were not always open to external influences to the same degree. Like none other than him he succeeded in identifying precisely the moments, when his clients were most receptive to his inputs, thus provoking change easily. Conclusion and Lesson 5: Await the right moment, and then intervene softly.

So, my lessons learned from Federer, Bandler and Erickson for my coaching are: Stay in the back seat, and work for specific tasks only. Support the top performers to stay on the top. Teach how to focus on what works instead of what does not work.

What for do I write this blog?

With this blog I have the intention to share experiences and learnings from the field of coaching. Further on I like to answer to questions, and I will face discussions fuelled by readers’ comments. Real coaching cases should provide exposure to the daily business. In addition to this it is hoped to get a kind of feeling about actual or future coaching needs from readers of these articles.

How did I get to write such a blog?

Since 25 years – in the role of a leader or as a personal coach or mediator –  I have been supporting people to turn out their best and work happily in a state of flow. Obviously I learned a lot from all these hundreds of persons I worked with. As s sign of thank this experience should be made available to as many people as possible.


Claude André Ribaux

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