Relational expertise for coaches is the capacity to create meaningful, close connections with others that leads to mutual growth and development. My work in this area has been greatly influenced by the Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) developed by Jean Baker Miller and colleagues at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College. I was introduced to WCW and RCT when I has the head tennis coach at Wellesley from 1994-1998.
Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) suggests that growth-fostering relationships are a central human necessity and disconnections are the source of psychological problems. According to RCT a close relationship is defined by four qualities: (a) authenticity (the process of acquiring knowledge of self and the other, feeling free to be genuine in the context of the relationship in an ongoing effort to represent one’s true self while assessing one’s own risk and gauging the impact of certain truths on the other and respecting the needs of the relationship), (b) engagement (perceived involvement, commitment, responsiveness and emotional availability), (c) empowerment/zest (the experience of feeling personally strengthened, encouraged and inspired to take action through connection in a relationship), and, (d) the ability to deal with difference and conflict (the process of expressing, working through and accepting differences in background, perspective and feeling leading to enlargement of the relationship, rather than disconnection)
We rarely and explicitly train coaches to become relational experts.
I wrote a guest column this month for the Minnesota Women’s Press LeaderVoice on my experiences and thoughts on the Relational Coach. I also have a published article in the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching titled Expanding the Interpersonal Dimension: Closeness in the Coach-Athlete Relationship
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