Targetting our Coaching Beyond TTPP

Overcoming Blocks In Learning

Whenever I coach I aim for my students to experience a long term change and improvement.  To achieve this, it is important that I target my coaching appropriately.  Many coaches target their coaching using the BCU ‘TTPP Model’ (Technical, Tactical, Psychological or Physiological).  Sometimes, whatever we do in terms of TTPP, it doesn’t result in the change desired by us or our students.  In these cases it is useful to refer the ‘Neurological Levels’ Model to identify where to target our coaching interventions.

The model of Neuro-logical levels was developed by Robert Dilts from the work of Gregory Bateson and is useful when applied to a number of situations. It can identify possible blocks to learning at specific levels and therefore provide more information for dealing with them appropriately.

The neurological levels are often shown as a hierarchy, this is a useful way of learning and thinking about them but they all connect and influence each other.

The levels are:

1.    Identity: The who

2.    Beliefs and Values: The why

3.    Capability: The how well

4.    Behaviour: The what

5.    Environment: The where and the when

We can adapt this model to make it more useful for us as coaches;

IdentityWhat Kind of Paddler Am I?
ValuesWhat is Important about this for Me?
BeliefsWhat usually happens when I do this and Why?
Behaviours and CapabilitiesTechnical         Tactical         Physiological         Psychological
EnvironmentAm I OK paddling here?

Starting from the top of the hierachy;

Identity is our sense of self, who we are, our core beliefs and values. We express ourselves through our behaviour, skills, beliefs and values; however, we are all and more of these. Our identity emerges from the interaction of all the other levels, and our identity ultimately drives those levels.  Identity is often communicated through “I am…” statements.  For example, when someone says, “I am a grade 4 paddler”, they think that all of the environmental factors, behaviours, capabilities, beliefs and values are in place to give themselves a grade 4 paddler ‘identity’ label.

Values are what we hold as important to us.  Values have a hierachy.  If we value learning to roll, but have a higher value of being warm and dry, we might find learning this skill not easy.

Beliefs are the principles we think guide our actions, but these may not actually be true!  They give permission for, and prohibit, our actions. Someone who believes rolling isn’t easy will not find it easy.

Behaviour and Capabilities are what we do and how well we do it. Behaviour is seen externally by others, “I can do that when I choose to!”; capability can be seen when our behaviour is consistant, habitual and autonomous “I wish I found that easy to do.”  Often, our coaching is targetted at this level (TTPP).

Environment is the place, time and people involved. It is where we do what we do. The environment can and does have an influence on us. As a coach, we often manipulate the environment within our coaching and use a ‘closed’ environment when introducing new skills and a more ‘open’ environment to vary practice.  Often, we paddle at our best within the ‘right’ environment and with the ‘right’ people.  One location or set of people boosts our learning while others may constrain them.

Using the Model

According to the Model, we need to ensure our coaching intervention is at the appropriate level, and this needs to align all levels starting at the top (Identity).  So, if someone thinks that kayaking on grade 4 is not safe (at the level of ‘Belief’), then coaching at the lower levels of ‘Environment’ and ‘Behaviours and Capabilties’ will generally not result in permanent change (unless that coaching allows the student to re-evaluate their belief).  In this case, there are probably two possibilities which the coach and student can explore.

  1. If blockage is at the level of Belief, this blockage may extend upwards to Values (“kayaking on grade 4 is not safe, so it’s just not important to me”), and also include Identity (“kayaking on grade 4 is not safe, so it’s just not important to me, I’m not that kind of paddler”).  If this is so, the ‘wants’ of the paddler do not include grade 4 and any such goal is likely to be coach centred.
  2. If the blockage is at the level of Belief, but the levels of Values and Identity support paddling on grade 4 (“kayaking on grade 4 is not safe, but I understand how important it is for my development, it’s just that I’m not a grade 4 paddler yet”), then the coaching interventions will need to challenge and allow the student to re-evaluate the belief that grade 4 isn’t safe.

The second case also illustrates how to target coaching to overcome a block where someone has been put off paddling at that grade as a result of a scare or bad swim.  Often, the advice given by some is to go back to basics, and develop skills on easier water before gradually going back onto the harder water where the scare happened.  We can see from the model that this is not the most appropriate intervention.  The block is at a level of Belief or higher, so going back to basics (at the level of Behaviour and Capability) is unlikely to have the desired results.

So when you are talking to students about the changes and improvements they wish to make but are having trouble with, listen carefully to the language they are using to pick up clues about where the block is occuring.

Giving Feedback

The Model is useful to consider when giving feedback too, and it is useful to identify at what level the feedback is aimed.  Some people consider feedback, (especially negative feedback) as an attack on their identity (eg, “You are a rubbish paddler!!” – feedback on Identity), often the feedback is only about behaviour or capabilities (eg, “We need to work on improving your bow rudder”),which is more easily dealt with.  We need to remember that feedback at the higher levels will have an impact on the organisation of the lower levels too.

For more information or training in how to use NLP and Neurological Levels in your coaching  please contact me at

Open canoe, sea kayak and white water courses and coaching, 1:1 and group workshops, BCU Training and Assessments in Northumberland and the North East.


coaching, Communication

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