A group resonance intervention with a volleyball team:
An exploration of the process between a
consultant, coach, and athletes
Bettina Callary and Natalie Durand-Bush
University of Ottawa
School of Human Kinetics
Resonance interventions are aimed at helping people develop an ability to regulate how they feel by identifying how they want to feel in different aspects of their life, how to prepare to feel this way, the obstacles that get in the way of that desired feel, and how to reconnect with it through individual or group sessions led by a consultant (Newburg, Kimiciek, Durand-Bush, & Doell, 2002; Arcand, Durand-Bush, & Miall, 2007). The purpose of this study was to examine if and how a coach could develop and apply the process of resonance with his team through a resonance intervention facilitated by a researcher/consultant and continue nurturing this process once the intervention was completed. The participants included a varsity volleyball team comprising a male coach and 16 female athletes. The 26-week study comprised three phases: a 6-week pre-intervention phase involving interviews and observations; a 14-week intervention phase involving four team sessions, individual consultations with the coach, participant journaling, and observations; and a 6-week post-intervention phase involving interviews. The results are presented as a narrative (Polkinghorne, 1995) to tell the story of how the researcher/consultant worked with the team as a group and also individually with the coach to help them learn and apply their personal resonance process and enhance their performance, leading them to a OUA Championship title and Coach of the Year award.
Resonance is a holistic process in which individuals engage to become aware of and regulate how they feel on a daily basis. They identify how it is they want to feel in different aspects of their life, how they can prepare to feel this way, what obstacles get in the way, and how they can revisit the way they want to feel in response to obstacles (Arcand et al., 2007). In research conducted with over 300 expert performers, Newburg et al. (2002) concluded that they all had in common the ability to experience resonance. According to Newburg (2006), individuals ‘resonate’ when they feel a seamless fit with their environment as a result of regulating desired felt experiences. It is possible to experience resonance without knowing about it, although it appears to be more easily achievable when one is aware of and consciously attempts to engage in such a process (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell, Durand-Bush, & Newburg, 2006).
Durand-Bush and colleagues’ (2005) research has focused on the concept of feel as a holistic, multidimensional process because research in the context of sport that focused on broader felt experiences extending beyond emotions is sparse (Arcand et al., 2007; Lussier-Ley, 2006; Wolfe, 2006). Durand-Bush and colleagues felt it was important to look at how athletes feel from this multidimensional perspective because their initial research showed that when athletes described their felt experiences, there was a strong physical component, among others, to which they repeatedly referred (e.g., my legs feel heavy, my body feels light and loose). The Resonance Performance Model (RPM, adapted from Newburg et al., 2002) was used as a framework to study the concept of feel as a multidimensional process and document if athletes could become aware of and manage their felt experiences in their sporting environment. In-depth, multiple case intervention-based studies with over 50 athletes suggest that the athletes felt differently in different sporting situations and contexts, and their felt experiences varied over time. Their descriptions also included different dimensions. For example, they discussed how they felt physically (I feel strong), cognitively (I feel confused), emotionally (I feel happy), socially (I feel part of the group), and also spiritually (I feel at peace with myself) (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006; Durand-Bush et al., 2005; Wolfe, 2006). Thus it appears to be important to consider multiple facets when examining how athletes feel when engaging in their sport.
It is noteworthy that in the individual, person-centered, feel-based interventions, the participants were given the freedom to identify and define how they felt and wanted to feel in different life contexts instead of the researcher/consultant delineating felt experiences for them (e.g., limiting experiences to emotions). They were empowered to take ownership of their sport and life experiences and design them in a way that allowed them to feel the way they wanted to feel as often as possible. Overall, the interventions, involving bi-weekly sessions and reflective journals (Moon, 2004) facilitated by a trained consultant, have led all of the participants to increase their self-awareness. In 90% of cases and to varying extents, they enhanced their ability to regulate felt experiences to enhance performance and well-being (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006; Durand-Bush et al., 2005; Lussier-Ley, 2006; Wolfe, 2006).
Resonance interventions have recently been explored with teams. Lussier-Ley (2006) studied the creative process of six modern dancers from a professional dance school. The creative and felt experiences of the dancers were ethnographically documented over a four month period using participant observation, field notes, reflexive journaling, videotaping, and 12 weekly focus group discussions. Results indicate that the dancers were able to nurture their creative process by paying attention to how they felt (Lussier-Ley, 2006). Within the group work, the dancers spent much time talking about how they individually wanted to feel and this led to discussions of how they collectively wanted to feel when they performed. It was determined that collective feel is a social phenomenon that can be experienced positively or negatively. The participants deemed it important to work toward a desired “collective feel”. The atmosphere or performance environment created by the group of dancers, as well as the teachers and support staff, was an important mediator of their collective feel (Lussier-Ley, 2006). The latter finding is of significance because resonance studies have not explicitly examined teachers, coaches, and support staff in the resonance process. The trained consultant played an important role in facilitating the collective feel of the group. However, a limitation was that the study did not involve the dance teachers in the group intervention (Lussier-Ley, 2006).
Wolfe (2006) also conducted a group resonance intervention with a synchronized swimming team including 16 female, club-level synchronized swimmers, one female head coach, and one female assistant coach. The group of athletes participated in pre- and post-intervention interviews as well as eight intervention sessions. The head coach was interviewed alone before and after the intervention and participated in two individual, and two group intervention sessions. This team’s entire season was chronicled using a narrative, case study approach (Polkinghorne, 1995) to explore their felt experiences and coach-athlete and athlete-athlete relationships. Through the intervention sessions, the team was able to communicate how they wanted to feel in contrast to how they actually felt as a result of inner conflict between the coach and some athletes. This allowed the team to attempt to resolve their differences since they rarely spoke of these issues outside of the sessions. The coaches and athletes were involved in the intervention, which led to rich discussions regarding their roles. The most significant benefit for the coach was that she developed self-awareness and was able to make decisions that were in line with how she wanted to feel (Wolfe, 2006).
As there have only been two studies in which a resonance intervention was conducted with a team, and no studies have specifically targeted a coach’s ability to facilitate the resonance process, there is a need for this type of research. This is important because coaches affect how their athletes feel within their sport context (Salminen & Liukkonen, 1996). Although individual athletes have been able to develop and apply their resonance process to varying extents as a result of participating in a resonance intervention (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006; Durand-Bush et al., 2005; Lussier-Ley, 2006; Wolfe, 2006), it is not clear if and how coaches can nurture this process to help themselves and their athletes regulate how they feel to increase performance and well-being.
Resonance as a Feel-Based Consulting Approach
By conducting several intervention-based studies, the resonance process has evolved into a unique consulting feel-based approach in which the consultant plays a key role (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006; Durand-Bush et al., 2004; Lussier-Ley, 2006; Wolfe, 2006). In using the resonance approach, consultants encourage individuals to explore not only felt experiences, but also values, beliefs, desires, needs, strengths, weaknesses, fears, obstacles, and any relevant personal data influencing how they feel. In this holistic process, they are empowered to take ownership of their life to design it in a way that will allow them to feel the way they want as often as possible (Durand-Bush et al., 2004). Since this self-awareness and actualization process is mostly subjective, resonance interventions are person-centered and unique to each participant or group (Durand-Bush et al., 2004).
In a way, the resonance approach can be likened to Carl Rogers’ (1965) client-centered, humanistic approach, which facilitates affective-cognitive interaction through empathic listening by the consultant. However, more than empathic listening is involved in consultant led resonance interventions. Evocative empathy (Martin, 2000) is an important skill to master and is defined as “communicated understanding of the other person’s intended message, especially the experiential part” (Martin, 2000, p. 4). Therefore, it is important to hear by actively listening and observing non-verbal language to determine what clients mean or are unable to say and communicate this to them. Evocative empathic consultants see clients as experts capable of solving their issues, challenges, or problems through increased independence and personal responsibility (Martin, 2000). Consultants espousing the resonance approach have similar beliefs and expectations and provide a process for identifying, discussing, and evoking felt experiences. They work at the leading edge of the clients’ experiencing and help them take hold of their felt experiences to explore all facets (Arcand et al., 2007). This means going beyond feelings and emotions and examining other relevant dimensions such as physical, cognitive, social, and spiritual ones.
The Resonance Performance Model (RPM) is an educational tool used by consultants to guide the process in which people become aware of and manage how they feel (Newburg et al., 2002). The model, which is cyclical and dynamic in nature, comprises the four following components, of which the titles have been adapted over the years: (a) The Way You Want to Feel, (b) Preparation, (c) Obstacles, and (d) Revisit The Way You Want to Feel (see Newburg et al., 2002 for a complete description of the components). Although consultants use this framework to guide their work, it is done in the most flexible way at the participants’ own pace. This is the reason why resonance interventions have been empirically examined using a constructivist and multiple case study approach (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Stake, 1994).Moreover, ownership (i.e., responsibility and accountability) and reflection are key elements for any intervention to bear fruit (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006; Wolfe, 2007).
Coaches may be able to contribute to the resonance process, however, no studies have explored this yet. According to Halliwell, Orlick, Ravizza, and Rotella (2003), a coach’s commitment to the consulting process is a very important element that helps to increase the potential that athletes’ performance be enhanced. When athletes see their coach supporting the consultant, their perception of the value of the intervention becomes greater (Halliwell et al., 2003). The coach may also be in a better position to integrate concepts discussed into the training program thereby increasing the probability of action emerging from self-awareness and practice (Halliwell et al., 2003). A coach’s trust, interest, and participation in a resonance intervention could thereby greatly improve the potential for performance enhancement.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to examine if and how a coach could develop and apply the process of resonance with his team through a resonance intervention facilitated by a researcher / consultant and continue nurturing this process of resonance once the intervention was completed. Specifically, the study sought to answer the following research questions: (1) By participating in a resonance intervention facilitated by a consultant, can a coach help his athletes experience resonance? (2) After completing a resonance intervention, can a coach continue to help his team experience resonance? (3) Does a resonance intervention enable a coach to enhance his team’s performance, however he chooses to define it? and (4) How is a consultant most effective when facilitating a resonance intervention with a coach and his athletes?
Constructivist, Case-Study Approach
In using a case study approach, the intervention and evolving process of resonance of this individual team was clearly documented and analyzed in-depth (Stake, 1994). A constructivist paradigm was deemed the most relevant for this study as the realities of the participants were altered and constructed within their social context (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). While the stories of the participants corresponded because they were constructed as a group, it must be noted that the participants had various points of view and as such, their realities were not identical. The coach, in his position of leader of the team, viewed the team differently than a rookie, who viewed it differently than a veteran player. Therefore, a constructivist paradigm was critical to understand how the realities of the participants intersected within the study (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).
The varsity women’s volleyball team included 16 athletes between the ages of 18-24. There was one rookie on the team, three graduating players, and the rest had been on the team between 1-3 years. The coach was a 39-year-old male with 16 years of experience coaching the varsity team. In addition, the coach was enrolled in a Human Kinetics program to complete a Master’s degree in Sport Psychology.
A purposive sampling method was used to recruit the varsity level athletes and coach (Fraenkel & Wallen, 1996). It was, in fact, the coach in the current study who approached me, the researcher / consultant, to participate in the study after hearing me speak about my research at a seminar. All of the athletes also volunteered and consented to partake in this study.
Researcher / Consultant Preparation
I was both the researcher and consultant in this study, and my preparation and competencies for these roles must be addressed. During my Master’s program, I took courses in which I developed interviewing skills. In addition, I read all the materials pertaining to resonance, participated in a resonance intervention, and conducted a resonance intervention study for my fourth year undergraduate thesis. Finally, I conducted an 8-week pilot study with a soccer team that served as a verification of the procedures and skills required for this study.
I am aware that my involvement in this research affected the realities of the participants and recognize my biases as a researcher, consultant, coach, and previous participant in a resonance intervention. I have attempted to report the experiences of the participants as neutrally as possible, and have kept an audit trail of the procedures, findings, and my reflections to be able to debrief the collection and analysis of the data with my supervisor and peers. In turn, this ensured the trustworthiness of the findings (Altheide & Johnson, 1994).
The study involved three phases spanning 26 weeks that started at the beginning of the school year and finished during the playoffs. The pre-intervention phase lasted 6 weeks, the intervention phase was carried out over 14 weeks, and the post-intervention phase lasted 6 weeks.
Pre-Intervention Phase. In the pre-intervention phase, I met with the coach to determine how he presently coached his group of athletes, how he perceived performance, success, and feel, and what he foresaw for the upcoming year. I also met with the athletes as a group to address similar questions. The purpose of these interviews was to determine what the team already knew about how they felt and wanted to feel, and if and how the coach explored the way his athletes felt. Finally, I engaged in observations of the team’s practices twice per week and took field notes of pertinent issues (e.g., verbal exchanges such as feedback, emotional occurences, common and distinct body language) so that I could tailor the intervention sessions according to their specific needs. As such, the field notes were deemed an important source of data (Altheide & Johnson, 1994). Since this phase was at the beginning of the season and school year, it also allowed the athletes and coach to get acquainted with the newly formed team and dynamics.
Intervention Phase - Sessions. In the intervention phase, I met with the team as a whole (i.e., athletes and coach) on four occasions for approximately 1.5 hours each time, spaced out as the coach wanted, every two to three weeks. During the first intervention session, the team discussed the RPM components and how each member impacted the team. In the second session, they explored ways in which they could prepare to feel the way they wanted, and delved further into the way they wanted to feel. In the third session, the team talked about team and individual obstacles, as well as strategies they could use to respond them to reconnect with the way they wanted to feel. The fourth and final session was conducted after the Christmas break to help the athletes and coach return to competition after the holidays. After each group session, the coach and I also engaged in a short individual interview to determine what he had learned.
In addition to the sessions, both the coach and athletes engaged in a journaling process that enabled them to individually reflect on felt experiences, thoughts, and actions, and how these related to their performance and well-being. They completed a total of 10 journal entries, of which six were responses to questions that were given to them after the sessions, and the remaining four entries were answers to individualized questions that I asked after reviewing their entries.
While journaling is a standard practice in resonance-based interventions (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006; Durand-Bush et al., 2004), this was the first time that the journaling was conducted by answering reflective questions through email. It was the coach who suggested this medium. It was useful because I was able to respond to their entries with additional questions or reflective statements. In addition, I used the information from the journals to develop general questions for subsequent intervention sessions and to analyze how individual athletes were reflecting on and applying the resonance process.
I continued to observe team practices and take field notes during the intervention phase. These observations allowed me to view first hand the issues discussed in the sessions and any attempts to apply strategies to experience their collective feel and overall resonance process in practices and games (Altheide & Johnson, 1994). The field notes also helped me to formulate pertinent questions for following intervention sessions. Prior to each session, I discussed with the coach what I wanted to address and also asked for his input into issues he wanted us to discuss.
Post-Intervention Phase. In the post-intervention phase, I left the team for six weeks. I did not observe during this time because the purpose of this phase was to determine if and how the coach was going to continue working on the resonance process with his team and maintain what was accomplished during the intervention. Simply observing the practices, even without speaking, would have impacted the process because I would have acted as a reminder of the intervention.
Following this time, I had a final interview with the athletes as a group to examine how they felt and if and how the team, including the coach, was still using strategies previously discussed and possibly developed new ones. The interview also focused on drawing lessons and any changes as a result of the intervention. The coach was not present in this interview as I wanted to get the impressions of the athletes and the coach separately to cross-validate the information (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). Therefore, I had an interview with the coach alone one day later to address the same questions.
The tape-recorded interviews and intervention sessions were transcribed verbatim and written up as narratives through a narrative analysis (Polkinghorne, 1995). The athletes and coach reviewed the narratives to ensure that I had accurately captured the events,as well as their perceptions and experiences. Narrative configurations are a viable way to organize the events and actions of various participants into a coherent whole story in order to express the way in which the story unfolded (Polkinghorne, 1995). Since changes occurred over the course of the intervention, it was important that they be apparent and that the timeline of events be clearly depicted. Field notes and journal entries were reviewed to confirm and/or complement the data collected from the interviews and intervention sessions. In this way, the data was triangulated to ensure trustworthiness (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Polkinghorne, 1995). The narratives were compiled to present the story that unfolded across the three phases of the study, and in particular, the team’s evolving process of resonance (Polkinghorne, 1995).
The following narrative is organized according to the three phases of the study. Events and important details are shared throughout to provide the reader with an account of what occurred chronologically as the study evolved and also to demonstrate changes and interactions between the participants. Citations are also provided to give a voice to the participants.
When I first joined the team to conduct this study, the coach told me that he wanted to develop the team’s ability to take responsibility on the court, and to make decisions by themselves without needing the coach’s input. He thought the team was open and ready for this type of intervention because it would help them take control over how they felt. He reported that they were not able to remain consistent under pressure.
The Athletes.The pre-intervention interview with the athletes helped to determine how they interpreted the relationship they had with their coach and whether or not he explored how they felt and wanted to feel. The athletes believed that while the coach did not always know how they wanted to feel, he knew in general when they were collectively in a bad or good mood. When asked about performance, the athletes defined that it was “the process of getting to the win.” They also defined “feel” by initially saying that it could be physical and emotional. A discussion ensued that demonstrated that they were aware of different dimensions of their felt experiences, for example, they discussed wanting to feel confident and focused and described what that meant to them. When asked “Do you think that how you feel affects how you perform?” they responded, “Definitely.” Most of them knew how they wanted to feel independently, although they had never explicitly expressed this, but they did not know how they wanted to feel as a group because it had never been discussed before.
The Coach. The coach openly shared information about himself and his team. He said that while he instinctively knew how his athletes felt, he was not sure how they ideally wanted to feel. He wanted them to have a positive attitude with a strong belief in themselves and he wanted them to play passionately to help each other perform in competition. When asked about his definition of performance, he said that it was anything that the athletes did to develop themselves in volleyball and life in general. He wanted the team to improve their performance by becoming responsible for their actions and feelings. The coach said that it was important to connect with different facets of “feel,” although he was not sure how to do this. He emphasized the word “atmosphere” to describe the collective team feel they strived to attain.
The Consultant’s Observations. In my observations of practices, I noticed that the coach and athletes often used the word feel. The coach explained that the athletes needed to be able to “feel” where each person was on the court based on the energy they were giving off. I wondered if the athletes did this or even knew how to do this. Was the individual feel of each teammate different and did it affect the way they played and competed as a team? If the team had a particular feel as a whole, then would individual players benefit from becoming aware of how that felt as well? I asked the coach what he thought of my questions. He confirmed that the team had a particular feel and stated that every athlete needed to know what they needed from one another to achieve this. The coach liked the idea of a resonance intervention because he felt that he already naturally used this process but wanted someone to work with him and his team to schedule in time to consciously and more systematically develop it.
First Intervention Session. During the first intervention session, I asked the athletes to discuss what each of them brought to the team. The word “atmosphere” was presented and I asked what that meant. They said it was the feeling that each person brought into the gym to create the whole atmosphere, that is, the way the group felt based on everyone’s combined feel.
The components of the RPM were discussed and written on a whiteboard. From this discussion, the team identified that they wanted to feel unstoppable. One athlete said:
There’s something specific we need to execute … that feeling to me is amazing. In a game, it’s one of the best feelings… It’s a key feeling to me … every single person is betting on the same thing, we’re all going after the same thing. It’s an extreme sense of unity and an unstoppableness. Right or wrong, you feel unstoppable. – Athlete
This was apparently an important word for everyone as it was repeated several times in different contexts throughout the session. The coach also mentioned that he tried to create a rhythm. He could not explain exactly what that meant, except that it was a feeling that was tangible. This word, used by the coach, was also shared by the athletes. They had developed, and were continuing to develop in the session a shared language that they could all understand.
The team talked about many ways in which they could prepare to feel the way they desired and in particular how each team member would help to develop this team feel. One example was celebrating successes:
One of the coolest games this year, where it was really rhythmical, we all got together beforehand and said “What we really need to do is have more celebration after the point”… it made us feel like we were all there, we were all celebrating the same thing, we were all excited about it. It took a little bit of the edge off and made the game a little bit more rhythmical, better in the end. – Athlete
On the topic of obstacles, another component of the RPM, the athletes stayed broad and explained more what obstacles meant to them:
Whenever you come to volleyball, you want to leave your life at the door and you just want to focus on volleyball. But sometimes things are just happening and you can’t control them and they affect the way that you feel that day, like personal things. It can be really tough to fight through and think of volleyball goals only. – Athlete
The team had very few strategies for responding to obstacles and reconnecting with how they wanted to feel. It was determined that it was usually unconscious and “tricky” to pinpoint. In the end, they said that it required further discussion and work; predominantly good communication between the players.
In his individual interview, the coach reported that he became aware of his ineffectiveness to help the team revisit the way they wanted to feel. This was perhaps because he had never asked them how they wanted to feel before and without knowing this, it was difficult to know how to help them reconnect. He developed an image of how he wanted the team to rebound after facing obstacles. In this way, the communication between the athletes in the first intervention session gave him additional ideas to coach the team in a clear and meaningful way.
The athletes and coach’s journal entries showed that they were developing an awareness of how they wanted to feel but were not capable of using strategies to consistently achieve this feel.
I can’t be completely sure what it was that caused all that but Saturday’s game I felt the exact way I like to feel before I play a game… This is all pretty interesting to me, and as I try to become more aware of what creates a good feeling for me in practice, I’ll keep you updated. Until then, sorry I don’t have more concrete examples… but I’m still trying to pin it down. – Athlete
Overall, the athletes showed an awareness that how they felt affected their performance, as indicated by the following athlete, “Wednesday was a bad practice day for me, just a bad day in general and this reflected on my performance at practice”.
Second Intervention Session. At the beginning of this session, the women shared that they had become conscious of how their collective feel affected them, but that they generally had not tried to use any strategies to help them feel the way they desired. Therefore, one of the goals for this session was to find practical applications and move information to action. The athletes discussed that they had been just trying to get through practice and games, that is, they were going through the motions without feeling the rhythm.
For this reason, we talked about the image the coach wanted the athletes to project to respond to obstacles such as lacking rhythm. While the idea was explored, the athletes found that they individually used different methods to prepare or reconnect with the way they collectively wanted to feel. The athletes realized that first expressing the way they currently felt would allow them to better recognize the rhythm of the team, which in turn could help to turn performance around.
The coach directed the questions more and more as the session progressed. He wanted the athletes to understand the possibilities of expressing the way they felt and wanted to feel, and using strategies to get those feelings more often so that they could see how this would affect the team’s performance. For example, one athlete realized for the first time that when she became upset with herself over a mistake, this affected the team badly because she became self-centered and turned inwards. She instead wanted to project an image of determination and give more to the team. This discussion led them to believe that they could and should better “feel” each other.
In their journal entry, the athletes and coach completed their individual RPMs and compared them to the team RPM that was created in the first session. They indicated what they saw resonating between both models and what needed to be added or changed to increase the congruency between them. They became aware of the impact of vocalizing and writing about feel.
In the preparation aspect, I could have a few key words that I would look to before every practice and every game. These key words can be written down somewhere and they could trigger either the feeling that I want to feel, or the physical skill that I am working on for the day. Having the words physically written down will probably help me focus on them even more. – Athlete
This athlete posted selected words in her locker in the change room. Another athlete wrote:
I added to how I want to feel that ‘I belong at this level’, which I realized recently that that was something I doubted a lot but I’m having more faith in myself which I think is a pretty good thing. – Athlete
In the next email journal entry, the participants explained how they used the strategies to help them feel the way they wanted and how that affected their performance.
I always find Tuesdays the hardest to get going…this week I decided to try… just slowing down before practice. So after class instead of rushing I walked slowly and listened to calming music… As a result I felt a lot easier going and free and it made me more determined, it felt almost like that unstoppable feeling we were talking about. - Athlete.
A valuable function of the email journaling was that I could ask more questions based on the participants’ responses. I asked an athlete whether she had written about new strategies and tried to use them. She answered:
I just didn’t really think too much about it [before]…but I specifically did it and was more aware of it because of what we have been talking about for the past couple of weeks… I was never really aware of what that creates or how that affects the outcome of a rally until recently. – Athlete
I observed a team practice after being away for one week to find out that the team had responded to a major obstacle. During the past week, the coach had been getting more and more impatient with the women and was snapping at them each day because he thought they were not committed to the team. He did not realize how he was affecting the team, and the athletes were having a lot of difficulty engaging in and enjoying their practices to the point that they did not want to come to practice, which created a vicious spiral of undesired felt experiences. They decided that they needed to deal with the situation and the captains met with the coach to ask him for his input into the situation. From the shared communication, the athletes and coach were able to reflect on their actions and effectuate changes.
Third Intervention Session. The coach talked in this session about how he had come to realize his immense influence on the atmosphere, that is, how the athletes felt in the gym. The athletes agreed and shared how important it was for them to take responsibility of their own team feel and performance.
I think we all realized how much impact he [coach] has walking into the gym … Another positive thing that came out of it is that we stepped up and took that responsibility to create our own atmosphere. I think that’s a big thing that we took out of those two weeks. - Athlete
The athletes applied a strategy to revisit how they wanted to feel due to the hardship they encountered. The coach shared that in his view, getting frustrated with them was the wrong way to get the right result, that is, getting the athletes to be more accountable and control changes. However, they showed maturity and responsibility for feeling the way they wanted, which he had never seen in a team he had coached. In his individual interview, the coach said that he liked that the resonance intervention was open-ended, athlete-centered, and allowed them to realize the impact that feel had on their performance. He felt that the intervention took into account the athletes as “whole persons”:
It’s about a long term feeling, not a short term feeling. It’s about your whole personal life feeling, not only your specific sport feeling when you’re on that court, in that gym, at that time. That’s what I really like about this. It’s feeling like it’s just part of our general discussions, part of what we’re dealing with. People aren’t being forced into pigeon holes... The homework that you’re giving them is still open ended enough, it’s not like “ok, fill out this questionnaire, this form, write down these tiny little details”. I like it because it’s challenging them to be responsible, to be mature about it, and I feel the process is even helping the responsibility part. – Coach
The participants emailed me entries that showed their increased awareness and ability to make decisions reflecting the way they wanted to feel instead of letting the environment dictate their feelings. The athletes were to ask themselves when they first woke up in the morning, “How do I want to feel today?” They found it challenging to remember to do this but rewarding when they actually did it, as one athlete stated: “It helped me to realize that if I tell myself how I want to feel during the day, it’s easier to accomplish, especially now that I am aware of how much I let situational things bother me.”
Another athlete admitted the challenge that becoming self-aware can pose: “It does create awareness…we become painfully aware of some of the little things that might have been more effective when they were subconscious.” I responded to her journal entry:
You know what, this is not easy stuff. It is hard. It is painful. It can be embarrassing, annoying, frustrating… but, once it’s there, then it’s there. If it’s subconscious, then it is never there all the time... All I can say about it feeling unnatural is that of course it feels unnatural, but so does changing your arm position or your foot work when you’re trying to improve your technique. Then, eventually, it becomes natural and you are better because of it. This is the same idea.
At this point in the process, the coach wanted my reflection on the team. He felt that getting feedback from someone close to the team but removed enough would benefit him. I wrote him an email stating that the team was strong, learning considerably, and I noted the progress everyone, the coach especially, was making towards becoming more self-aware and engaged to feel the way they wanted to feel. I also asked the participants to write a reflection on how the intervention had impacted them so far. They wrote about how the team had become more “close” on the court because the “feeling of the team” was present.
The meetings seemed to have opened up new doors and bring us closer as a team on the court, cause (sic) we all know we are on the same page now and what we want to achieve. When games get tougher this is where guts come in and the feeling of team needs to be even more present. And I think that these things we did help. – Athlete
The athletes also spoke about individual improvements:
I really didn’t believe that I had complete control over how I felt, but I have realized especially recently that I can control that and make decisions as to how I want to feel everyday. Now it goes well… It has really helped me become a more positive person with good outlook on life and individual days. – Athlete
I have realized through writing these reflections and in meetings that our team has a very similar mind set. I am personally becoming more aware as to how I personally feel. Especially in the one refection that I wrote about my injury and how I am frustrated. That frustration is something I would never let my team know but is something that is a huge part of my life right now… Overall the reflections have made me be more aware of how I personally am feeling on an everyday basis. – Athlete
Fourth Intervention Session. There were no practices in December and our fourth and last intervention session was held in January. We met after the team’s non-league tournament in which they placed second. The athletes were pleased with this result and talked about their best match of the tournament where they had laughed and cheered each other on the most. They felt unstoppable throughout that match and prior to it, they consciously made an effort to recreate the way they wanted to feel by visualizing what they wanted to do. The coach had suggested that they try this strategy.
In this session, the team also talked about the way they wanted to feel in the second semester. It was very important to them to feel fresh. They discussed how the coach had helped them to experience their desired feel during the Christmas camp by reorganizing the schedule and for this reason, they now felt fresh. As well, the athletes talked about obstacles that still negatively affected the team. They shared that sometimes they did not stop to talk about how to regain control when they were losing, but rather scrambled to chase the opposing team without a plan. Instead, they wanted to avoid such obstacles by going into the playoffs with the belief that the other teams would not make errors and they had to play the better game.
In my individual interview with the coach after this session, I asked him what resonance meant to him now that he had lived through this intervention. He said that resonance meant that he could more often achieve the feeling that at any given moment, everything felt right, in other words, everything felt congruent. The RPM was a template used as a means to achieve that right feel. The resonance process worked for him because he felt that creating the best environment to “get the team feel” was clearer to him. He also felt that the process was introduced to the group seamlessly, without feeling mechanical, and as a result of spending a season working on this, the athletes were gradually able to engage in their personal process of resonance without overthinking it.
The coach also felt that it was likely that I, the researcher / consultant “would not be able to grasp the extent to which (I) have turned the athletes onto the process,” since it is a gradual, almost unconscious lifestyle change, but that it had “absolutely” affected the team’s performance. He said that he could see the difference it made within the team because the whole team was engaged in the sessions. He also shared that many people saw the team as being tough-minded, calm, confident, and determined. He believed that the resonance intervention was a catalyst in allowing many aspects of their performance to come together because of what was discussed in the sessions and then applied in their practices, games, and their life in general.
Finally, the coach stated that working with me during the intervention was like having a full-time assistant coach who kept him on track with the way the team wanted to feel by having scheduled meetings and reflections. Furthermore, the intervention helped him to feel the way he wanted to feel more of the time. He felt that the timing of the sessions allowed him to get back on track to create the atmosphere and feeling the team wanted.
Post Intervention Phase
During this phase, I did not observe the team’s practices or games because I knew that the coach would talk to me and I would impact whether or not he would continue to use the resonance process. I received email updates on how the team was performing in games, and after four weeks into this phase, I received one email from the coach addressed to the entire team that synthesized what they had discussed in a team meeting. In this email, he urged the team to continue to take responsibility for the way they wanted to feel and stay in control of their feelings, atmosphere, and response to situations. Essentially, this email was a reminder of all the sessions we had. It showed his absolute conviction in using the resonance approach with his athletes.
All the options and tactics in the world are not going to do you any good if you are not prepared to approach every situation all match long with an aggressive, positive, find a way attitude…and that, you MUST TAKE INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY… EACH INDIVIDUAL IS IN CONTROL OF THEIR ATTITUDE AND RESPONSE TO EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON AROUND THEM… I am sure we will be down at some point, I am sure things won’t always feel great…we need to be on the look out for that [obstacle] feeling creeping in and be ready with a determined response as an individual and as a group. – Coach
This was one indication that he continued to work with the team on developing their resonance process even when I was absent.
Post-Intervention Interview with Athletes. I wanted to find out if the athletes were still engaging in their resonance process and using strategies to feel the way they wanted and effectively respond to obstacles. I hoped that this discussion would also serve as a reminder to use relevant strategies for their final upcoming match on the weekend. All the athletes agreed that the Ontario University Association (OUA) quarter-final game had been their most memorable game since we last met. This was because they were losing in the first half but managed to turn the game around and win. They told me that they never gave up on themselves throughout the first three matches despite falling behind, and finally, the other team started to falter and they continued striving. According to them, they never gave up because they had prepared to encounter this obstacle, and they had the confidence in their ability to overcome it. They had prepared to feel the way they wanted and strove to build on this “unstoppable” team feel throughout the game despite encountering situations that would normally have created obstacles. The captain summarized an important lesson from the intervention:
We’ve all come together and put on the table the feeling that we want to achieve, and yeah, probably we all knew this individually, but it wasn’t actually stated, so it was hard to talk about. But now that it’s been put out there, if we want to find that feeling or talk about it, we don’t need to try and describe it. – Athlete
Other athletes mentioned that they learned to communicate better with each other based on how they wanted to feel, and as such, they were able to recognize obstacles and deal with them more quickly. They all agreed that they now were more accountable for the way the team felt. The turning point was when the coach became upset with the athletes’ commitment level: “That’s when we realized that we don’t need (the coach) to control our feelings, we can do it ourselves.”
I asked if the coach helped them to engage in their resonance process once I left the team. They described times in the post-intervention phase when he held meetings that helped them to do this:
Before the quarter-final game, [the coach] told us that [he] was going to do everything he could to keep positive the whole time. That is what the resonance model taught us … He knows that that’s what we need to feel the way we want to feel. - Athlete
Overall, the athletes found that the intervention helped the coach to plan their training and competitions in a way that was more congruent with how they wanted to feel since they communicated this to him in the sessions.
Finally, they reported that the intervention helped them in not only their volleyball context but also life in general because the same strategies were applicable to their daily life: “When you wake up in the morning, you want to have a good day, so what do you have to do to make that happen? I think it’s pretty much the same thing [when you] compare life to volleyball.”
Post-Intervention Interview with Coach. In the post-intervention interview, the coach began by describing what he learned throughout the whole process. What struck him the most was how much he could do to get the team to perform as best as possible. He shared that as a result of the intervention, the athletes increased their self-responsibility. They became consistent through highs and lows in matches because they were able to keep the same high level of intensity and team feel whether they were winning or losing. As a result, the opponents could not break the team’s belief in themselves. According to him, the athletes really recognized in the last month that they were capable of being this unstoppable force. When I asked how this happened, he stated that it was a combination of many things:
I think what your involvement has added that was critical was a willingness to reflect, to be self-aware, group aware, share who you are with each other. That phrase has been a central idea for me. I don’t think people grow up until they’re willing to be really aware of themselves. These kids are growing up. They really act mature… I don’t think that was there in September. The maturity that they’ve developed in one year, I think it’s quite amazing. I think it’s been their biggest accomplishment. – CoachI asked the coach if he thought he knew how his athletes wanted to feel. He said:
Clearly, I have a better understanding of what I believe they want than at the beginning of the year… I know a little bit more about what they want from me. It’s interesting, they may want a certain atmosphere, but it doesn’t work if I’m the one [trying to control it], but it might work if it’s coming from [an assistant coach] or a team mate. That has been interesting this year. Noticing which things can come from which people. I don’t want to be the one triggering all of these things. But I’ve always felt that I’ve had to because no one else was. But I think part of the reason no one else was, was because they weren’t aware of it. Especially the second half, it feels like there was a little bit of learning, a little bit of learning, and now it’s taken off a lot. I think they’ve really recognized that they can help each other, and at the same time, that they can be responsible for their own atmosphere. - Coach
The coach reported how resonance progressively became a central element in their training and success:
Slowly, subtly, I think they’re operating with resonance as a central idea and they don’t even know it. You’ve done a really good job, I think, of it being a really subtle process. I don’t even know if they really, really recognize that it is a central idea in their success. They might, if asked, now realize. That’s the thing about the process of resonance. It’s not a good thing if it’s forced. – Coach
The coach felt that the intervention was successful because the team was technically sound and could spend considerable time working on regulating how they wanted to feel. The process was:
A very valuable part of focused training with our team, it’s just not a little aside anymore. These kids have realized that they play their best when they feel their best, and that they control as best they can their atmosphere and their attitude and help bring each other back when they’re falling off the cliff, all the little things that they can do with the work attitude. Yes, this is a big part of what I wanted for the team. The process that you worked with this year, I hope to continue to expand on it, and reset it when needed and run with it at other times. – Coach
The coach shared how he perceived the team changed, but I also asked if he himself had changed and what he did to help the team learn along the way. He said that he trusted the team more and gave them the chance to develop control and responsibility. He also developed by engaging in the resonance process himself.
I think that by having you regularly involved, I never had a chance to get caught up too long going in a wrong direction without becoming aware of it. Having another meeting every so often, whether it was having conversations with you at practice, it just kept me on track with what I believe in. My attitude, my calmness, my enjoyment of this is important. So many times in the last few years, there have been so many things going on that all of a sudden, we’re feeling in a rut, I’m grumpy and they’re grumpy. It happened this year for sure, but it was probably the shortest time that it has ever gone without me knowing. This process has kept that on track a lot for sure. – Coach
Interestingly, the coach felt that this process would have a lasting, permanent change in his coaching. Immediately after the 4th intervention session, he thought that the team was not ready to win the OUA Championship, and he asked himself what he could do to help. For the first time, he said he did not look to the technical aspects, instead he focused on creating the right environment to experience desired felt experiences for the whole team.
We stayed with [resonance] long enough this year, and trusted it and we’ve seen some results. I think that’s what’s got me hooked on it and it will stay more in the front of my mind. When I ask myself, ‘What are the top 2 or 3 things that we can do to get better?’, that’s now in the top 2 or 3, instead of ‘Well, maybe we can try it.’ But, not without effort on my part to stay a part of what we’re doing. That’s where having you around, dropping into practice, [helps]. Even with you walking in the gym, I don’t think it was super conscious, but just seeing you was the memory jogger that that’s another aspect of our team that I’ve got to remember. – Coach
The coach asked me to continue working with the team next year. He said that he would not want to run the sessions himself because he knew the athletes benefitted from reflecting on and sharing private reflections with me. The coach concluded that the intervention process was a huge contributor to their performance, the “central or global picture allowing them to go the extra mile.” The next weekend, the team won the OUA Championships for the first time in 21 years and went on to become 6th in the country at the Canadian Championships. The coach also received the Coach of the Year award designated by the league.
While many resonance interventions have been conducted with individual athletes and showed improvements in their lives (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006; Durand-Bush et al., 2005), only two previous studies were conducted with groups (Lussier-Ley, 2006; Wolfe, 2006). The current study was the first to explore if and how a coach could develop and apply the process of resonance with his team through a resonance intervention facilitated by a researcher / consultant and continue nurturing this process of resonance once the intervention was completed.
Can a Coach Develop and Apply the Resonance Process?
This study showed that the coach could, with the help of the researcher / consultant, develop his team’s resonance process and lead his team to apply it, even after the intervention ended. The RPM became a central tool, allowing them to identify and pay attention to how they felt and wanted to feel, how they could prepare to feel that way, what obstacles got in the way, and how they could respond by reconnecting to their desired feel (Newburg et al., 2002).
In the beginning, the coach wanted the athletes to take responsibility and control of their felt experiences on and off the court and did not think it was his responsibility to motivate them to do this. The literature suggests that a coach’s personality largely influences the direction of an athletic program, thus the coach should be aware of himself and the effect he has on athletes (Lanning, 1979). Throughout the intervention, the coach became increasingly cognizant of how much his own thoughts, actions, and feelings impacted the team, and realized the important responsibility he did have in helping the athletes take charge of their performance. This occurred as the coach listened to the athletes communicate what they wanted of each other and of him, and through the coach’s increased reflection through journaling and reflective conversations with the researcher / consultant regarding his coaching practice. The coach’s interest, belief and commitment to the mental and emotional components of performance were likely key elements in his success to develop and apply the resonance process with his athletes (Halliwell et al., 2003). These authors stated that when the coach is ready to work with athletes on topics discussed in consulting sessions, the athletes are more likely to apply the knowledge.
Although results show that the coach was able to implement the resonance process with his team, the extent and depth to which he did this, particularly after the intervention was completed remains unclear; more observations and interviews would have been required to determine this. However, according to both the coach and athletes, they did continue to explore in the post-intervention phase how they felt and wanted to feel as well as strategies they could use to feel this way, particularly in the face of obstacles. This study was the first to examine if a coach can help develop and nurture the resonance process of his team. It would be interesting to see in future research if coaches of different teams would adopt a similar process.
Interestingly, despite the team’s success in applying the resonance process, the coach and athletes stated that they would prefer to continue working with the researcher / consultant in the future instead of facilitating the process themselves because of the flexible structure, reflective process, and neutral viewpoints the consultant brought to the sessions. This emphasizes the important role that consultants play when working with coaches and athletes (Halliwell et al., 2003). In essence, one might suggest that the consultant served as a preparation and revisiting strategy to help the team, including the coach, to feel the way they wanted and perform to their potential.
How Effective Was The Consultant in Facilitating the Intervention?
The coach found the researcher / consultant to be effective in working with him and his team. In addition to participating in the group intervention sessions, the coach engaged in several individual interviews and informal conversations with the researcher / consultant in which the focus was more on him – on what he was experiencing, learning, and especially feeling. Yalom (1995) as well as Shechtman and Ben-David (1999) highlighted the value of individual, direct interventions, whereby relationships are built on direct support, consultant feedback and interpretation, and consultant self-disclosure. In this intervention, the coach was open to talking about himself and his team, both positively and constructively. In this way, the researcher / consultant could get directly involved, have a positive regard for the coach, be empathic, genuine, and care for the team’s success. The researcher / consultant gave the coach the narratives of the interviews and group sessions in which he participated, and shared interpretations of events and the team’s progress when the coach wanted feedback. In this way, she was involved in constructing the experiences of the coach and overall team (Sparkes, 2002). The relationship and trust between the coach and researcher / consultant resulted from ongoing quality interactions (Martin, 2000). According to Martin, it is crucial to have the right fit between consultant and client / participant because the quality of the relationship is the best predictor of success in any consultation.
The athletes also positively commented on the researcher / consultant’s effectiveness. As with the humanistic approach, the consultant facilitating a resonance intervention establishes trust with the participants through empathic listening (Durand-Bush et al., 2004). The participants shared that the researcher / consultant was patiently unobtrusive and this was found to be key in the consulting process. Halliwell et al. (2003) stated that, “patience is an important quality that yields much greater results than pushing yourself on athletes or performers” (p. 36).
Another point of discussion is the effectiveness of the researcher / consultant in facilitating the group sessions. The intervention provided the team with an opportunity to work together as a group to enhance their performance as they defined it – “the process of getting to the win.” Kivlighan and Kivlighan (2004) suggest that unlike individual consultations where the consultant provides direct support, in group interventions, the consultant’s role is indirect, working through the group members. The group thus benefits from the interactions between the group members to guide its change process. Furthermore, the consultant’s role is to encourage group exchanges and feedback by creating a group culture (Kivlighan & Kivlighan, 2004). It could be argued that the athletes and coach affected each other more through the intervention than the consultant did, which was not likely the case in one-on-one resonance interventions conducted in past studies (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006).
How did the Team Benefit from the Intervention?
The coach reported that he initially bought into the idea of participating in a resonance intervention because he felt that he naturally used this approach when he coached. Newburg and colleagues (2002) also found that several expert performers had this common experience of resonance. Perhaps it is one of the reasons why the process of resonance developed throughout the intervention did not seem unnatural to him. It was apparent from ongoing observations that the athletes also mutually understood the importance of such an intervention. They believed they could create and connect to a team feel and they also perceived performance as a process, not just an outcome, so the use of the Resonance Performance Model as a tool in the intervention resonated with them. Based on previous resonance studies, these elements of trust and engagement in the process are important and may explain why the team benefited from the intervention to the extent that they did (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006; Durand-Bush et al., 2005; Lussier-Ley, 2006).
Like the participants in Lussier-Ley’s (2006) study, the athletes in the current study developed individual RPMs and found that these contributed to the team RPM. A difference was the email reflective process utilized in the current study. Lussier-Ley reported that the dancers extensively discussed how they individually and collectively felt during the group discussions but did not choose to engage in formal journaling. The volleyball players and coach, on the other hand, discussed their individual feel more through email journaling, which was interestingly suggested by the coach. This type of journaling was not implemented in past resonance studies and due to its perceived benefits and convenience, it should be explored in future studies. As can be seen, the coach can play an important role in developing a team’s resonance process and should be involved in interventions when appropriate and possible. Teachers / coaches were not involved in the group resonance intervention conducted with dancers in Lussier-Ley’s (2006) study, which was recognized as a limitation.
In the end, this group intervention was successful because like the coach wanted, the athletes became responsible and took control of their felt experiences, thoughts, and actions on and off the court, and arguably also because the team’s performance increased. The coach believed the intervention played a role in them polishing their performance and winning the OUA Championships. The intervention also impacted their life in general as the coach and many athletes applied what they learned in other meaningful contexts. Similar results were found in previous studies involving an individual resonance intervention (Arcand et al., 2007; Doell et al., 2006) and a group resonance intervention (Lussier-Ley, 2006). Interestingly, the coach also received the Coach of the Year Award.
Within a resonance intervention, all participants play an important role in determining how it unfolds. In this study, a researcher / consultant worked with a team as a group and also individually with a coach to help them develop and apply their resonance process. In many regards, the intervention resembled those carried out in previous studies in which perceptions of performance and well-being were reportedly enhanced. However, what was different in this study was the main focus on the coach and his ability to learn and facilitate the resonance process with his team. The intervention was a success because of all the participants involved. The researcher / consultant was important because she was able to connect with the coach and athletes to help them become aware of their felt experiences and implement their process of resonance. The athletes were important because they trusted the coach, the researcher/ consultant and the process, and also worked to help each other apply their team RPM and be accountable for it. The coach was important because he trusted not only the researcher / consultant to facilitate the resonance process, but also the athletes to become self-directed and responsible for their felt experiences and performance, all the while recognizing that he had to remain engaged due to his large influence on the team. It cannot be discounted that the coach was the team leader and his interest and participation in the intervention helped the team to apply the resonance process in practice and in games. The team described performance as “the process of getting to the win” and the intervention served as a medium for the coach and athletes to engage in a personalized process leading them to their ultimate goal of winning the Ontario University Association (OUA) Championships and also a Coach of the Year award.
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Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Bettina Callary, University of Ottawa, School of Human Kinetics, 125 University St., Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org