What is Coaching?

The word “coach” is thought to have originated from a Hungarian town, Koc in the 15th centuries. People in this town built light, fast carriages to transport people, called “kocsi”. These carriages became popular in Europe and the English word “coach” came into use in the 16th centuries.

Since then “coaching” is identified as a term used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be. Coaching focuses on either an individual or a group of people. The term is mostly associated with sports coaching however it is widely used for other areas as well, such as academic, business, relationships, personal and professional development and beyond. The concept originally emerged from the Human Potential Movement in the 1960s. This movement promoted that people want to achieve their full potential and focused on how to improve performance. The concept of the “inner game” came into light in the 1970s that promoted the human’s internal thoughts, fears, desires, mindset and self-belief was just as important as the external factors, such as knowledge, skills and competencies. Since then, a number of professions and methodologies have crossed line with it, such as consulting, training, therapy, psychology, mentoring; and have been influenced by linguistics, sociology and anthropology.

Coaching is now an individual profession with a number of professional associations (e.g., International Coaching Federation; Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision; Association for Coaching; European Mentoring and Coaching Council). Due to the mixed heritage of coaching there are many theories and misconceptions on what coaching really is.

Perhaps the best-known coaching definition is by Sir John Whitmore: “Unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them” (2009).

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential”.

There are many other definitions out there and therefore there is no right or wrong answer of what coaching really is. The most important is however, that coaching is a managed conversation between two people or a group; the sessions focus on developing people personally and professionally in order to reach their full potential and the aim is to create sustainable change in the way of thinking and behaviour. Once the “inner game” is changed, there will be less struggle against the external factors.


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