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  • Writer's pictureTravis Fitch

The Relevance of Ontological Coaching for Elite Sports

By Travis Fitch


Travis Fitch is in the final stages of the 18-month Certified Ontological Coaching and

Leadership Program. Although very successful in applying the ontological methodology as a

in organisations as a coach, consultant and facilitator, Travis has created a new niche for his

ontological skills in the intense and highly competitive environment of elite sports.

Physical conditioning, technical skills and strategic and tactical awareness are not sufficient

for sustained successful engagement at the highest level of a sport, because elite sports

people can only compete from their Way of Being. This is not only their Way of Being on

game day, but also their deep Way of Being as a person. By skillfully applying his ontological

learning, Travis has generated interest and ready acceptance to the way he has brought the

ontological approach into several top sporting clubs.


This article consists of two parts:

1. Travis’ journey to elite sports coaching

2. What people have to say about Travis’ contribution


Over to Travis to share his story …..


Travis’ journey to elite sports coaching


I initially became involved in supporting elite sportspeople through an organic and somewhat experimental approach. It all started when I began exploring how an ontological approach could benefit my youngest son's basketball team. My goal was to support the boys as they navigated feelings of anxiety or disappointment, dealt with calls that didn't go their way, or experienced moments of frustration when they weren't fed the ball despite being open. This hands-on experience highlighted the potential of Ontological Coaching in a sports setting.

 

Although I am not an elite sportsman myself, I have a passion for long-distance running. Around 2020, I developed a journaling tool for self-coaching based on the ontological methodology. This tool helped me better understand my emotional ebbs and flows and also the injuries I was experiencing in my running. By using this tool, I was able to identify and gradually shift away from harmful comparisons I was driving myself with and my own harsh inner critic, leading to significant personal improvements.

 

Encouraged by these positive results, I reached out to some NBL 1 (National Basketball League) players with whom I had built relationships through a sports chaplaincy role I had filled. I proposed the idea of Ontological Coaching to enhance their performance, and a few athletes agreed to give it a try. One of these athletes, Caleb Davis, who had competed at a national level, shared his experience:

 

“I initially came on board with Travis in an effort to learn more about emotional mastery and to develop myself in different areas - both on and off the basketball court. Competitiveness is one of my biggest strengths and personality traits; however, when it is not understood and channelled in the right way, it has the potential to be detrimental to myself and my team. Travis helped me with a number of different learning goals and processes which we spoke about and reflected on, before and after games. This allowed us to have measurable outcomes as we assessed my development and progress. I was amazed to feel and see shifts within my mindset that ultimately led to me having my best year in my basketball career. This was no coincidence."

 

Despite the basketball club's lack of bandwidth to expand this work, I saw potential in reaching a wider group of athletes. Therefore, I approached the CEO of West Perth Football Club to explore the possibility and interest in offering similar support to their athletes. This was a very significant step in my journey in supporting elite sportspeople through Ontological Coaching.When I first approached the club, I offered my coaching support voluntarily, making myself available to athletes as needed. As players began reaching out, a variety of issues impacting on-field performance surfaced. These ranged from relational conflicts and returning from injury to dealing with non-selection, lack of clarity on development areas, the mid-season departure of the head coach, and how to take the field following personal tragedy.

 

Prior to this second year, the club and I conducted a review to identify what worked well and what could be improved. Inspired by a concept from an east coast AFL (Australian Football League) team, we decided to create the "Personal Excellence Hub." Our goal was to develop a holistic approach to athlete development and wellbeing. The Personal Excellence Hub offers a range of support and is fundamentally based on ontological theory and methodology. This includes delivering coaching and also team-based experiential learning, fostering a shared language and key “inner-game” frameworks to support high performance.

 

To help fund this initiative, we developed a contra-sponsorship arrangement under the banner of my employer, Oasis People and Culture. Recognising that this wasn't core business for Oasis and leveraging their brand to give the club confidence in my ability to deliver, I decided to personally invest in the project, delivering the elements in my own time.

 

Including preseason, this commitment has required around 20 hours per week on top of my standard hours. While this may seem significant, the results have been incredibly rewarding and life-giving for both the athletes and me.

 

The response from across the club’s departments has been overwhelmingly positive. One pleasant surprise has been the Head Coach's appreciation of the learning being offered. He now makes deliberate space in training sessions and on game days for the team to engage with me as part of their ongoing development, game-day preparation, and recalibration when things don't go as planned.

 

West Perth's WAFLW (Women’s League) team is successfully competing in its first-ever finals campaign, and we are already beginning to review the season in preparation for the next. I am very excited about what lies ahead in 2025 and what we are on the cusp of delivering.


What people have to say about Travis’ contribution


Travis’ story of his successful experience in the application of Ontological Coaching in Australia football has been beautifully supported in the recent news article published by the Western Australian Football Commission. Quoting from the newsletter ….


The launch of West Perth Football Club’s Personal Excellence Hub has seen positive results both on and off the field.


Through Healthway’s Think Mental Health Initiative, West Perth has taken further steps in addressing player welfare and wellbeing with the Personal Excellence Hub powered by Oasis People & Culture.


This initiative is designed to provide comprehensive development for players, significantly enhancing West Perth’s Women’s program. 


Players benefit from several key resources, including:

  • Yarn for weekly mental, physical, and emotional check-ins (called iYarn). 

  • They also have an online program for season-long goal setting, where they learn effective goal-setting methodologies beyond just SMART goals. 

  • Coaches can monitor and comment on their progress, with players setting comprehensive goals that are reviewed mid-season and end-of-season to ensure accountability and clarity. 

  • Weekly to twice-weekly development sessions are integrated into training to help the team and coaches leverage mindset and emotions for improved performance.

  • Additionally, players have access to confidential coaching conversations to address off-field issues or conflicts affecting their performance.


West Perth’s Head of Personal Excellence and Resilience and Wellbeing Coach, Travis Fitch said the program looks beyond the usual on-field measures and reaches both League and Rogers Cup players.


"The West Perth Personal Excellence Hub is committed to cultivating a psychologically safe environment that cares for the whole person first, not just the athlete,” Fitch said. “We know that individual and team performance significantly improves when investment is made into creating an environment that fosters genuine care, learning and development, honest reflection and feedback, and courageous authenticity.”


The early results from this program have seen improved results for the League side who have jumped from sixth position on the ladder last year, to second in 2024, having won eight games so far.

Head of WAFLW Development, Luke Richardson says the results speak for themselves.


“We’ve seen exponential improvement in overall player satisfaction within the program,” Richardson said. “It’s been a privilege to see individuals take such impactful steps forward towards taking genuine responsibility for their needs and behaviours as semi-professional, high-performance athletes. 


“A crow-bar for conversation, if you like, has encouraged nurturing AND challenging. When a balance is found in these two areas wonderful things can happen as we are seeing in 2024.  Credit must be given to Fitchy (Travis Fitch) for his unwavering, incomparable commitment to player welfare and development. He is supported by an incredible coaching group who remain aligned to our premiership model and list management strategies.”


Falcons player Taylor Ferguson highlighted the benefits her and her teammates are experiencing using the Personal Excellence Hub.


“It’s been a significant change, culturally for us at the Falcons,” Ferguson said. “The much-needed changes presented opportunities for us to have robust conversations about player development as teammates and peers. Fitchy (Travis Fitch), Deggers (Clint Degebrodt – WAFLW Head Coach) and Richo (Luke Richardson) shared a vision for us as high-performance athletes that we needed to focus on showcasing our strengths and to trust that our club will resource us to the best of its ability to enable us to just perform. 


“I have enjoyed using iYarn, 4Boxes Goal Setting and our weekly sessions – they have encouraged conversation and they have helped us cultivate an environment of good human beings aligning to our club’s values of trust, selfless, resilient and spirit. 


“I truly believe that without our club’s significant investment in such a ground-breaking space for the WAFLW, we wouldn’t be looking at finals in just our third year, we would not be performing as we are now.”


** Travis Fitch works as a coach, consultant and facilitator with Oasis People and Culture (https://oasispc.com.au/). He can be contacted at tfitch@oasispc.com.au 

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