Sports Psychology Coaching


Peak Performance Training for the Coach

Get in the Flow!

Bill Cole, MS, MA
The Mental Game Coach™
Silicon Valley, California

Pioneering medical researchers. Award-winning musicians. Heroic military pilots. Creative artists. Championship athletes. These are the images that come to mind when we hear someone describe peak performers. These people hold the highest ideals of commitment, dedication, singleness of purpose, and high energy we envision top performers possessing. If one end of the performance continuum is the residence of the burned-out or stress-impaired individual, then the uppermost reaches of human functioning is the dwelling place of the peak performer.

Do these special achievers have unique skills that enable them to rise to the top of their arenas? Certainly, peak performance in these endeavors will not occur without special talents, but much of what these superstars utilize to propel them to the top is available to any person desiring to become a peak performer in their chosen field, or in their daily activities. The mental training technology exists which can turn stressful environments into super-charged performance laboratories. These skills may be readily learned and then used to raise personal, professional and organizational performance standards.

How can you as a professional and personal coach bring the world of peak performance to bear upon your life and your work? How can you embrace the ethic and abilities of the peak performer to raise the level of your entire life's functioning on a daily basis? Is there a way to achieve the much-coveted flow state that is the portal to peak performance? Is everything a performance? How can you help your clients to become their own best coaches?

Peak Performance Research

How is it that some people are able to draw forth higher levels of ability from themselves while others are struggling to avoid boredom and burnout? For the past twenty years psychology has been studying the more healthy individual, in contrast to the previous 100 years when only the sick were being studied. Recently, through the combined research efforts of such diverse disciplines as sport psychology, studying championship athletes and coaches, military and astronaut pilot training, elite special forces military training and extensive studies of top achievers in business, music and the arts, we have begun to learn from these most healthy individuals exactly what makes them want to achieve and most importantly, how they achieve.

We have now risen above the study of the unwell, beyond the next generation of human achievement, those who handle stress well, to the ultimate level of human functioning, the individual who, on-demand, delivers consistent levels of peak performance. You, as a coach, are in a position to live this dream, communicate this to your clients and deliver the mental training technology they need to realize themselves as peak performers.

There is more to peak performance technology than merely avoiding burnout and handling stress to maintain homeostasis. Having excellent coping skills and dealing with a complex environment by having well-developed self-management skills is admirable, but peak performers move well beyond this skill set. But are peak performers really just lonely, eccentric, driven, workaholic over-achievers? Actually, the research indicates that peak performers are not maladjusted, are not isolated, are not social misfits. Indeed, they are healthy, well-balanced, satisfied, genuine and fulfilled people. They do not achieve at the expense of others around them. Rather, they enhance others by acting as role models for higher levels of performance. They are living examples of well-being, self-esteem, creativity, and the fulfillment of human potential.

The characteristics of peak performers cut across all performance arenas. Whether it be attitude, motivation, preparation, concentration, the ability to enter the flow state, coachability, being a team player, leadership, or the ability to relax under pressure, peak performers possess common elements under any conditions, whether they be physical, creative, personal or organizational. This extensive, fundamental skill set has been well-described by various researchers over the years, but one key understanding about peak performers is that these are master skills all top achievers have in their performance tool kits.

The individual performing at peak has learned and mastered them and knows how to apply them in particular situations, and has developed an ability to creatively adapt them in new and unusual situations. This amalgam of abilities may be seen as access skills to the personal internal climate necessary for peak performance. They allow the performer to consistently be engaged at peak. Your clients want to know about the flow state and how to access it.

As a professional coach you are in a position of commanding vision. You can be the holder of the peak performance training skill set your clients want and need to advance them into the next level of optimal functioning. You can utilize your peak performance tool kit any time you are acting in your role as coach. You can be the role model your clients need. And you can create an existence for yourself and those around you that speaks volumes for the high standards of the coaching profession.

The Flow State

The peak performer is able to gain entry to a special mental and emotional interior climate conducive to top levels of performance. It is different from our ordinary daily reality and quite different from the relaxation state. It is a state of flow, where the performer enjoys an effortless, focused, relaxed, automatic, confident existence. There is little anxiety, energy seems to be abundant, there is an optimistic outlook, mental focus is sharp and intense, the individual feels in control, physical relaxation is evident and there is a feeling of calm and quiet inside the performer. This flow state, coined by the psychologist Czikszentmihalyi, has been studied extensively and is now becoming the model of choice in facilitating peak performances from "ordinary individuals", and achievers.

Capturing this flow state is a prerequisite for peak performance. This special internal climate is also known as the zone of optimal functioning (ZOF), and the ideal performance state (IPS). The performer focuses on the process and becomes so engaged in the moment that all sense of time can be lost. The IPS is often likened to a sense of play, of being absorbed completely in the task at hand, in becoming one with one's work at that moment. Time seems to slow down, or cease to exist altogether. The individual performs at or near capacity, with deep endeavor, it is most likely to be brought forth when the task is right at the individual's limit of capabilities. The flow state is enhanced when one is pushing one's limits, but not so much that anxiety is created.

As a coach you have studied and will continue to study peak performance techniques across many disciplines, to help yourself and your clients. There are many paths to the highest levels of personal and professional functioning. An investigation into the knowledge and mastery of the flow state can be a new, exciting and powerful approach for you and your clients.

To learn more about how coach training can help you become a better change agent, visit Bill Cole, MS, MA, the Mental Game Coach™ at

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Copyright © 2005-2008 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time college athletics.

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Peak Performance Training for the Coach

Bill Cole, MS, MA
Sports Psychology Coaching

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