Nowadays, coaching is a term used by a variety of professionals including consultants, trainers, managers, mentors and of course, professional personal coaches! This is the first in a series of pieces exploring the differences between personal coaching and the other professions.
Coaching only began to crystallize as a real and unique approach in the late 1970s. A key player in the creation of non-sports coaching as a discipline, ironically, was a tennis coach. In 1975, The Inner Game of Tennis, written by a former tennis champion and coach named Timothy Gallwey, showed the world a radical approach to helping people learn. Instead of barking orders or even making suggestions, like most coaches of his day, Gallwey based his method on the belief in the innate ability of people’s bodies to learn and to perform. He allowed his students to learn through their own experiences on the court. He saw the coach’s role as one of asking powerful questions that would help players to increase their awareness of how they played, and to adjust accordingly.
Gallwey believed that the game of tennis, like the game of life, was one of expressing our potential and being the source of our own answers. Many of those who came to learn the Inner Game were business people. They soon saw that this new message they were hearing on the court could be applied in their boardrooms, as well. It was obvious that this coaching style could help manager/leaders assist their people to take better control of their jobs and careers, and to get results that were rare in the command-and-control management culture of the day.
In time, Inner Game coaches found themselves literally going to work across America to spread the word. Meanwhile, a student of Gallwey’s named Sir John Whitmore was bringing the Inner Game to Europe. At the same time, well known sports coaches were being hired to speak to employees in many American companies, further helping to blend the concepts of coaching, management, and leadership.
By the start of the 1990’s other pioneers were taking steps to bring coaching to new levels of acceptance and professionalism and today, dozens of schools are devoted to training people to become professional coaches, some with an emphasis on executive coaching. In 1998 the Professional & Personal Coaches Association (PPCA) and The International Coach Federation (ICF) joined together to create the primary body representing and supporting professional coaches today. (The ICF name remains.) Soon thereafter the ICF took the next step in professional development by starting to offer certification to coaches who qualify. Today, companies routinely hire coaches (or train their own) to assist managers with everything from professional and leadership development to personal growth. Some savvy organizations are even using coaching as a perk to attract and retain key players. Meanwhile, individuals regularly hire coaches to help them with career, business and personal growth goals. If it hasn’t been clear for all these years, it certainly is now: Coaching is here to stay.