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Alison Whybrow

The Special Group in Coaching Psychology have always enjoyed a strong, collaborative relationship with the Interest Group in Coaching Psychology (IGCP) of the Australian Psychological Society (APS). As part of this, I had the opportunity in August this year to visit Sydney and take part in their Third National Coaching Psychology Symposium. Having met Peter Zarris in July in London, I knew that this would be a well run, and enjoyable event to be a part of.

The event was held in a lovely location in downtown Sydney, overlooking Darling Harbour, and attracted over 200 delegates, mostly, but not exclusively, Psychologists. With the title ‘Leading Coaching Excellence - How to do it’, there was a decidedly practical focus. Each day consisted of a number of plenary sessions and a keynote with 90-minute workshop-style sessions in between. The event was stimulating and evident of a thriving coaching psychology community across Australia. Here I have captured a few of the papers, which does not do justice to the range and depth of topics covered.

Tony Grant provided a great presentation: Is coaching psychology flourishing? What’s the evidence? reminding us once again of the importance of an evidence based approach. He also reminded me that it is not that difficult to do more research within my coaching practice than I currently do. For example, something as simple as asking participants on a coaching skills workshop to complete a questionnaire ahead of the programme and after the programme as a method to assess skills development or change is often omitted from our practice. Tony Grant can be relied upon to be a great presenter and he did not disappoint.

I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Webb’s workshop on the value of coaching as a potential mechanism to avoid folly among leaders. Wisdom is a popular concept - sometimes presented as the ‘Holy Grail’ of leadership that has been enjoying something of a spotlight among researchers and leadership gurus more recently. Peters was a polished and informative presentation which gave an overview of what is quite a complex area in a very stimulating and entertaining way. The small group work required us to select a fellow participant whom was considered wise. The chosen individual was asked about a particular scenario and the answers rated along dimensions of wisdom. With limited time, we were exposed to an enterprising approach to assessing and evaluating the wisdom of others. This is definitely an area that I want to know more about.

Travis Kemp’s workshop about developing the coaching alliance, focused on the centrality of the coaching relationship in achieving effective client outcomes. This session very much required participants to focus on the coaching relationships that were fostered in their practice. It was personally informative and did bring greater awareness of what was working and what needed to improve with regard to coaching relationships. Jetlag prevented me making the most of this particular session, and I still feel the need to apologise to the person who chose me as a partner.

The final session of the conference was delivered by Peter Terry, who had just retuned from coaching at the Beijing Olympics. Peter provided a great insight through a case study of how coaching can work at the leading edge of sports performance. The nature of the coaching relationship, the context and system within which athletes operate in an elite sport environment, the centrality of measurement and mood management, the development of performance routines by combining attentional, behavioural and psych-physiological strategies was all detailed and all aligned to deliver optimum performance at a very specific point in time. In particular, Peter’s own style as a professional coach was clear and the depth and breadth of the psychological underpinnings to his practice was evident.

My experience was professionally stimulating, I was personally made very welcome and well looked after. The relationship between the SGCP and IGCP is strong, and we look forward to sharing developments and working together to strengthen the coaching psychology profession as it grows. Among the many great experiences in Sydney, they know how to make hot chocolate. As we are entering the depths of winter, I am looking forward to a Lindt chocolate café opening here.

Alison Whybrow
E-mail: sgcpchair@bps.org.uk


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