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Be a Coach!

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The word “sponsorship” has connotations in the outside world that do not fit my understanding of being an OA sponsor. For example, in immigration, a sponsor is legally responsible for a person entering a new country; there could exist a patriarchal implication that the sponsor is somehow superior to the sponsee. The word “sponsor” seems to confuse OA members more than my preferred word: “coach.” Here are some common attributes shared by OA sponsors and coaches:

  • The best coaches often had to work hard to achieve success. (In contrast, people with natural talent find it harder to help others because they’ve never had to struggle.)
  • Coaches are dedicated to helping participants make their best efforts within the scope of each participant’s interests and talents. Coaches stick to sharing their own experience and wisdom as they might best help participants.
  • A good coach does not assume the participant can or should do everything the coach does. Instead, the coach works to strengthen every participant’s special gifts, rather than trying to fit him or her into one mold.
  • A coach only works with a participant on a specific coached activity. Coaches have their own lives and finite ability and usefulness. A wise coach does not offer suggestions on outside issues.
  • Most of all, a coach is not responsible for the ultimate success or failure of the participant. A coach is there to help, but the willingness and effort to follow the coach’s suggestions must come from the participant alone.

I know the word “sponsor” is probably too ingrained in Twelve Step history to change, but I find it simpler to use the coach metaphor when I describe having or becoming an OA sponsor. People might be reluctant to volunteer as sponsors because the word has many different meanings. So, if the wording bothers you, be a coach instead!

— Anonymous, Virginia USA

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