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Why Not a Leisure Mentor or Coach?

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Today, there are mentors and coaches for all sorts of activities. There are mentors for career development within and outside of companies that help their protégé get ahead. There have been newly-established professions for executive coaches, leadership coaches, career coaches, organizational coaches, and life coaches. There are coaching organizations that certify coaches, such as the International Association of Coaching, and a nonprofit association of professionals who practice coaching, such as the ICF formed in 1995, with more than 21,000 members today. Still another organization is the U.S. Life Coach Association, founded in 2003, which is dedicated to promoting and assisting life and business coaches. There are even death coaches or counselors, such as Dr. Diane H. Polasky , who provides guidance for end-of-like preparation and care.

What got me thinking about mentoring and coaching is an article recommending a new type of mentor to help plan one's retirement years by L.M. Sixel: "Retirement Mentor Can Help Plan the Future." As Sixel notes, a professional who used a mentor for career development had a friend who recommended that everyone needs a mentor for every stage of life as a guide through uncharted territory, including retirement. As a result, the professional found a retired lawyer to mentor his retirement by asking questions such as "What do you want to do? What do you want to be?" when you retire.

While retirement planning has typically been about the money, a retirement coach can help one ask answer these "what do you want?" questions and find support from family members and friends to help one on this stage of life's journey. As I discovered, there are a number of retirement mentors who help people about to retire or already retired do just that, such as: Richard (Rick) Atkinson, a retirement specialist, and Steven Flood, who works with clients on all aspects of retirment planning, especially dealing with investment decisions and tax strategies.

But given all of this mentoring and coaching oriented toward work, business, and different stages of life, what about leisure mentoring or coaching, I wondered. Are there any mentors or coaches who help people make the most of their leisure time? I was particularly interested since I have been a game designer and currently am in an M.S. in recreation and tourism program at Cal State-East Bay.

However, when I searched online for leisure mentors, coaches, consultants, and counselors to guide individuals on planning their leisure, I found very little. The search for leisure consultants led to companies that assist firms in the leisure industry with planning their strategies, including doing feasibility studies, development planning, and marketing and sales assistance, such as International Leisure Consultants and Leisure-Consultants FZ LLC, a team of professionals based in the United Arab Emirates who develop, operate, and revitalize leisure entertainment facilities around the world. My search also turned up an article by Eileen Hinson, who described being a "leisure consultant" as a new job, based on researching, consulting, and preparing financial forecasts for companies interested in establishing sport and recreation facilities.

Well, what about leisure coaching? That search turned up recreational services helping individuals with disabilities achieve independence, such as the Leisure Coaching program of the Fairfax County Park Authority -- they created a program with the Community and Recreation Services and Therapeutic Recreation Services to help people with disabilities participate in camp, classes, and tours with the support of trained staff. Another example is the Adult Leisure Coaching Services program established by the Monroe-Meyer Institute, a part of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which assists in the development of lifetime leisure skills, such as water aerobics, craft classes, dance, and martial arts academies, for individual with development disabilities 18 and over.

Other articles on leisure coaching or counseling described programs designed for people with serious mental illnesses in a leisure crisis, or suffering from mind blocks. So the goal was to overcome common barriers and remove self-imposed blocks, so people could enjoy their leisure time.

But what I missed in all this searching for leisure professionals is doing leisure mentoring, coaching, or consulting for people who simply want to have fun and want some guidance in how to make the most of their leisure time -- and where to get these leisure experiences. Such an approach might start with an individual's priorities in what he or she likes to do, and then the leisure adviser might help to match the person with different types of preferred activities. But then a leisure adviser, mentor, coach, or consultant might go beyond simply recommending ordinary activities that might be found by opening a local weekly newspaper. He or she might have a repertoire of offbeat and unusual activities to recommend, too, and might help in creating a work-life balance so the individual might find more time for enjoying this leisure.

In short, why not a new type of advising, mentoring, coaching, or consulting featuring leisure as fun for the individual looking for new fun things to do? This leisure adviser might even organize a fun support group where people talk about the activities they especially enjoyed for the past week. In fact, if there are no other professionals doing this, I'd like to volunteer as the first to kick off this new profession. I think it would be fun to do -- especially in trying out all sorts of fun things to recommend to clients!

Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., is the author of more than 50 books with major publishers and has published 30 books through her own company, Changemakers Publishing and Writing. She writes books and proposals for clients, and has written and produced more than 50 short videos through her company Changemakers Productions Her latest books include: The Very Next New Thing: Commentaries on the Latest Developments that Will Be Changing Your Life and Living in Limbo: From the End to New Beginnings.

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