Coaching Models and 'The Inner Game'

There are a number of coaching models that you can use. A model is simply a predetermined procedure that provides a framework for navigating a route through a coaching session, as well as providing a means of getting the session back on track if necessary.


It is a good idea to become familiar with the models available and then to use your own judgment about which of them to use and when. Not all coaching sessions need a model and you will need to be flexible in your approach.

This eBook describes three well-known coaching models:

• The GROW coaching model
• The TGROW coaching model
• The OSKAR coaching model

Before looking at coaching models in detail it will be helpful to understand some of the background to the coaching process. Tim Gallwey was a tennis coach who noticed that he could often see what a player was doing incorrectly but that simply telling them what they should be doing did not bring about lasting improvements in their game.

For example, a common problem is that players take their eye off the ball. Traditionally, coaches would try to remedy this by reminding the player to keep their eye on it by giving simple instructions like 'Keep your eye on the ball.' Unfortunately, this advice is quickly forgotten and players often revert to old habits, leading to a lot of frustration all around.

Gallwey's breakthrough came when he decided that instead of giving an instruction, he would ask the player to say 'bounce' out loud when the ball bounced and 'hit' out loud when they hit it. The result was that the players started to improve without a lot of effort because they were naturally keeping their eye on the ball without consciously trying to do so. They were in fact playing a simple game (saying 'bounce' and 'hit') while they were playing tennis.

This experience lead Gallwey to draw the following conclusion:
'There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure in the outer game.' (Tim Gallwey, creator of The Inner Game)

Once Gallwey saw how play could be improved in this way he stopped giving instructions and started asking questions that would help the player discover for themselves what worked and what needed to change.

For example:
The first stage in this process would be to set a target that the player wanted to achieve - e.g. improve their first serve.

Gallwey would then ask how many first serves out of ten they would like to get in.

The player would then make ten serves and see how many they were already getting in out of the ten.

He would then ask awareness-raising questions such as:

'What do you notice you are doing differently when the ball goes in or out?'

This would enable the player to discover for him- or herself what they were changing about their mind and body when the serve was and was not successful. This is the essence of coaching: getting the coachee to set their own agenda and think about how they can change to achieve their desired goal. It provided the basis of a coaching framework - the Inner Game.


A number of principles have been developed out of Gallwey's experience with tennis players. While they originate in sports, the same principles can be applied to many learning situations.

It is more effective to focus your attention on a relevant aspect of what is actually happening while you are learning, instead of what you 'should' be doing or trying to get it 'right' according to someone else's perspective.

This may seem blindingly obvious; however, in practice it rarely happens. In our tennis example the player would probably be focusing on trying to remember what the last coach said about serving and would then become more and more frustrated if his or her attempts at improvement did not work.

The best learning happens when we are focusing on the present.

This means we are not struggling to prove or remember something but rather making discoveries as we go along.

The less we interfere with our learning, the faster we progress.

We can easily interfere with the learning process by, for instance, trying to look good or using a lot of unfocused effort.

Coaches using the Inner Game soon realized they could apply these principles in other learning situations. This led to the development of 'GROW' a structured framework using the Inner Game principles to achieve goals.

You may also be interested in:
Management Coaching Skills and Models | Coaching and Active Listening | Asking Questions in a Coaching Session | Coaching and Goal-setting | Giving Feedback to the Coachee | Building Rapport with the Coachee | Demonstrating Empathy and Using Intuition in Coaching | The GROW Coaching Model | The TGROW Coaching Model | The OSKAR Coaching Model | Organizational Barriers to Coaching.

Key Points

  • A coaching model is a predetermined procedure that provides a framework for navigating a route through a coaching session.
  • A number of management coaching principles have their roots in sports coaching.
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