Coaching Association of Canada

Gerry Dragomir, ChPC - Athletics

Questions – What? How? What if?

Questions, curious questions, insightful questions, inspiring questions, powerful questions... We all ask questions. Our questions define us and can either illuminate the darkest reaches of our inner lives, or close the door to possibility. Our powerful questions unleash untapped potential, solve intractable problems, and quiet the most unsettled mind, while our ego-based, biased, and judgemental questions block progress, limit potential and close down our minds.

When we get right inside the development process it’s our questions that bring the most exceptional results.

  • What if we tried...?
  • How can we get...?
  • Imagine what other ways...?
  • Is it possible to...?

These questions open the mind to alternatives, foster a change in perspective, inspire insight, and make us and our athletes more resourceful. We perform best when we are most resourceful.

Questions are the foundation that we build on to create the difference that sets us apart from the rest.

Some of the best questions being asked today are being asked about our brains. Where does neurophysiology end and consciousness begin? What is the role of consciousness? What are some of the many ways that this gold mine of understanding can be used to improve sport performance? Two practical applications of recent discoveries in neural function are showing promising results:

  • Neuro-mechanics: A field of study that combines neurophysiology and biomechanics with the aim of more completely understanding human movement. Franz Bosch is doing some extensive work in this field with rugby and football players.
  • Neuro-biofeedback: A process where neural and other biological information is collected electronically and displayed to the user. The user then adjusts normally involuntary behaviours by using the feedback information. Dr. Penny Werthner at the University of Calgary is doing extensive work in this area.

Both of these development modalities are founded on the assumption that consciousness is primarily inhibitory and real change comes from accessing the unconscious.

Questions – the right kind of questions asked in the right context – directly access the unconscious and bring resources into the realm of the conscious.

For Example: In the case of a performance block, a question such as, “Imagine that you were able to do ‘X’ and that you did it and had a great result. What were all of the things that you did that allowed you to get this great result?” You can consequently use questions to work back from the success to the present moment. The athlete now knows, in small steps and fine detail, how to remove the performance block.

The conscious mind can then take this new understanding to allow greater scope for performance by following the route of the imagined performance. For us in the world of performance, the unconscious is where all of the good stuff happens. Learn how to easily tap the unconscious through the magic of the open question, as noted above, and the boundaries of performance will be greatly expanded.

A very large body of knowledge now exists to confirm the performance gains that are generated through a coaching relationship where the coach has mastered the art of the question. I recommend that you give it a look if you’re after something that will make a difference to the performance levels of your athletes.

Why not give it a try? These works might have some use:

Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills – Tony Stoltzfus
Keeping the Brain in Mind: Practical Neuroscience for Coaches – Shawn Carson and Melissa Tiers
The Art of Asking Essential Questions – Richard Paul and Linda Elder