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History of the word "Coach"

Coaching is growing in popularity, both for people interested in becoming coaches and for people looking to create more of what they want in their lives. In Coaching for Leadership the editors remark that, "Coaching is a rapidly growing vocation these days because so many of us are searching for a qualified person to help us develop and improve" (Goldsmith, Lyons, Freas, 2000,p. 20). According to Lester Tobias, "Somewhere around the late 1980's, the term coaching came into business parlance" (CPJ, 1996, p. 87). Judge and Cowell point out that, "Like many other innovations, it seems to have sprung up simultaneously on the east and west coasts of the United States" (Judge & Cowell, 1997, p. 71). The first person thought to use the term executive coaching was Dr. Dick Borough, a practitioner in Palo Alto, California, who used the term to describe his leadership development activities in 1985. Judge and Cowell point out that by 1988 the term coaching had become mainstream enough that Forbes magazine printed a controversial article written by Dyan Machan entitled, "Sigmund Freud meets Henry Ford."

In one of the first articles published on coaching, Evered and Selman provided the history of the word "coach." They state that,

The word "coach" was first used in the modern sense of a sports coach in the 1889's (referring specifically to one who trained a team of athletes to win a boat race). Previously (beginning in the 1840;s), the word "coach" was used colloquially at Oxford University to refer to a private (vs. university) tutor who prepared a student for an examination. But the very first use of the word "coach" in English occurred in the 1500's to refer to a particular kind of carriage. (It still does.) Hence the root meaning of the verb "to coach": to convey a valued person from where he or she was to where he or she wanted to be (Evered & Selman, 1989, p. 16).

The word coach may not seem an appropriate word to use in the context of professional business and personal coaching, but when the root meaning of the verb is explored, it makes sense. In the book, Coaching for Leadership the authors contend,

"Coach" is an old French word meaning "a vehicle to transport people from one place to another." Today, a coach helps a person move up a level, by expanding a skill, by boosting performance, or even by changing the way a person thinks. Coaches help people grow. They help people see beyond what they are today to what they can become tomorrow. A great coach helps ordinary folks do extraordinary things. In short, a great coach provides sturdy shoulders to stand on so one can see farther than they might see on their own (Goldsmith, Lyons, Freas, 2000, p. 12).

Modern day professional coaches support their valued clients in assessing where they are and then assist them to move to where they want to be. Witherspoon continues on the theme of the word coach and explains,

Coaching is undertaken to bring out the best in people. The first use of the word in the English language was in reference to a particular kind of carriage. Hence, the basic meaning is to convey a valued person from where he or she is to where he or she wants to be (Coaching for Leadership, Witherspoon, 2000, p. 167).

Personal coaching is the second fastest growing profession in the U.S., and has been written about in Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and featured on shows such as CNN. In their book, Co-Active Coaching, Whitworth, Kimsey-House, and Sandahl state that professional and personal coaching can be traced back to executive coaching in large organizations and to mentoring programs (1998).

Modern coaching, came about in the eighties due to people's personal relationships and work were changing. Instead of working at one career, people began having the multiple careers we see today. Instead of taking what was given to them, people wanted something that would be meaningful to them. Instead  of accepting the treadmill existence that modern life can easily become, people were looking for balance. Coaching was the ideal answer, because up until that point there was no discipline devoted primarily to helping people improve their  working relationships and achieve their
True Aim in their lives.

Coaching is not therapy. It is action-oriented and geared toward the present. It is often highly pragmatic, focusing on such things as how to market a new business most effectively, how to manage employees well, and how best to interact with the corporate environment. There's certainly a lot of careful listening involved from the coach's side, because the coaching purview includes the place where work and the self intersect. But there's a big difference between someone who needs coaching and someone who needs therapy. When a coach encounters the latter, he or she will make a referral; people should get the kind of help they actually need. Sometimes, people work with both a coach and a therapist; the two efforts complement each other beautifully.


How Is a Coach Different From a . . .

A consultant usually is a specialist in a given area. They are hired to give advice and provide solutions. A consultant usually works with a client to solve a particular problem. Once the problem is solved the consultant leaves. The consultant usually doesn't get involved with areas outside of their specialty.

Coaching uses a more holistic approach. With the client, the coach examines the situation, creates a plan of action, and works side by side with the client to resolve the issue. The coach does not have to be an expert in the client's business. The client is the expert. The coach collaborates with the client to create a solution using the client's knowledge and answers.

The coach does not have the answers; they have the questions that lead to the client finding their own answers.

A therapist typically works with a dysfunctional person to get them to functional. A coach works with a functional person to get them to exceptional.

Therapists typically work with people who need help becoming emotionally healthy. They often deal with past issues and how to overcome them.

A coach works with functional people to move them to exceptional levels. Coaching does not rely on past issues for achieving growth, but on goals for the future. Coaching is action oriented. The focus is on where the client is, where they want to be, and how to get them there.

There is some confusion between coaching and therapy. My sense about this is, because therapy is evolving, many therapists now incorporate coaching skills into their therapy. This is fine. Therapist can coach. Coaches do not do therapy.

The way to know if you are doing therapy is if you are working in the past, if the client is stuck and can't seem to move forward, or if there is a drug or alcohol problem, more than likely you are doing something other than coaching. Beware, and if you feel uncomfortable or uneasy about where the conversation is leading, tell your client. Part of being a good coach is knowing when not to coach. If the client needs therapy refer them to a therapist.

Clients can use the services of a therapist and a coach at the same time.

While a counselor provides information and expertise, the relationship is normally hierarchical, perhaps even authoritarian. A coaching relationship is not hierarchical, the client and the coach partner to create a better future for the client.

Mentoring is a relationship that is established with someone who is an expert in their field. The mentor is usually older and more experienced than the mentee. The mentor bestows their knowledge and wisdom to the mentee. The mentee looks up to the mentor and seeks guidance and advice from the mentor.

A coaching relationship is a partnership where the coach walks side by side with the client. The coach supports the client in drawing on his or her own wisdom and following their inner guidance.

Interesting facts about coaching

  • There are an estimated 40,000 coaches practicing in 70 countries worldwide.
  • The profession continues to grow at a rate of 20% per year.
  • Coaching is a $1 billion USD a year industry.
  • 70% of coaches work mostly by telephone with a national practice.
  • There are over 50 coach training schools located worldwide.
  • There are more than 55,863 Web sites featuring Business and Personal Coaching.
  • The four countries leading in the coaching profession are:
    • United States
    • England
    • Japan
    • Australia
  • Approximately 73% of coaches are female.
  • Average ages of coaches range between 40 and 55.
  • Only 10% of coaching falls into the realm of executive coaching.
  • 51% of people hiring coaches are women.
  • The INTERNATIONAL PERSONAL AND BUSINESS COACHING WEEK is held in February. The event, created by ICF-New England member Jerri Udelson, MCC, is designed to provide a week each year to educate the public about the value of working with a coach and to provide an opportunity for coaches and their clients to acknowledge the results and progress made through the coaching process.

Learning to Ride a Bicycle

Here are common examples used in the coaching community to explain the differences between therapy, consulting, mentoring and coaching.

If you hired a:
Therapist to help you learn to ride a bicycle - The therapist would help you discover what is holding you back from riding the bike. They would go back into your past to discover what kind of experience you had at an early age with a bicycle.

Consultant to help you learn to ride a bicycle - The consultant would bring you a bicycle manual and tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the workings of a bicycle. The consultant would then depart and return six months later to see how you were doing.

Mentor to help you learn to ride a bicycle - The mentor would share their experiences of bike riding and the lessons that they had learned. The mentor would bestow all the wisdom they had about bicycle riding to you.

Coach to help you learn to ride a bicycle - The coach would help you get up on the bicycle and then encourage, endorse, acknowledge and support you while running alongside until you felt comfortable enough to go it alone.