To talk about the oldest sources of coaching, I suggest starting with a trip to Greece and going back in time about 2,400 years. We will be able to rise to the shoulders of such giants as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle!
Although they did not use the word "coaching", their assumptions are consistent with the current coaching. Therefore, one can assume that it is in these philosophers that coaching has its deepest roots.
Could we consider Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates as the first good coaches?
Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates shared a common goal that is the same as the purpose of coaching: to live a life that is most worth living. Let's see what were their fundamental thoughts on personal development, happiness and fulfilled life.
Plato believed that the search for a fulfilled life is very difficult to achieve alone.
He said that it is much better to have "someone" - currently a trainer - who will help us become aware and develop habits that allow us to fulfill ourselves better. The Platonic concept of education - and nowadays coaching - is based more on receiving than giving knowledge. Everyone has a part of the truth in them, but in order to discover it, they need someone to help them.
According to Aristotle, true happiness is achieved when people develop all their abilities.
Our goal in life is to strive for well-being through practice and the development of virtues, i.e. our values and patterns of behavior. Aristotle wrote that one thing is "what we are" and the other, completely different, what we can "become". Coaching also places emphasis on the Coachee discovering and developing his skills and thus having a fulfilled life.
Socrates, in turn, created the Socratic method.
Part of this method was the Maieutics (or otherwise, the maieutic method) built from open-ended questions. Its purpose was to stimulate insight and self-awareness. This method uses simple and almost naive questions to reveal the contradictions present in the current way of thinking of another individual and thus help them redefine their own beliefs. Its main goal is to reach the truth together.
Socrates made his interlocutors see the weaknesses of their reasoning. The basic method in coaching is to ask open questions so that Coachee himself discovers the truth, makes contact with his essence, brings out the best in himself, and broadens his horizons.
Let us now take a new journey to discover the first use of the word "coach".
So we go to the 19th century to visit Oxford. Approx. in 1830, the University of Oxford began to informally use the term "coach" to denote a private teacher who guides and prepares students for exams. The term "coaching" as used today is much more in-depth as it requires the Coachee to exceed his goals, visions, and dreams both in his personal and professional life.
I propose one last trip, now to Harvard, in the late 1980s.
Let's meet a man whom many consider being the father of current coaching.
This is Timothy Gallwey. Let's see how he coached his tennis students. Instead of giving technical instructions, he helped the player remove or reduce the internal obstacles that stood in the way of his victory. And the player had an unexpected natural learning ability!
Timothy Gallwey then published The Inner Game of Tennis, which was quickly followed by The Inner Game of Golf, Inner Skiing, and later The Inner Game of Work. This proposed change of approach was not well received by teachers because they felt questioned. But it made the students very happy. Timothy Gallwey emphasized the essence of coaching - awakening people's potential to maximize results.
He essentially followed a natural and innate way of learning that is often disrupted by instructions. The editions of Timothy Gallwey's books coincided with the emergence of more humanistic psychological models. Especially compared to the behavioral model, which assumed that people are like a flat board on which everything is printed from the outside. For Timothy Gallwey, humans are like seeds, and each seed has the potential to be a great tree. We need encouragement and light to get there, but the tree is already within us.
The transition from sports to business has been swift. John Whitmore, co-creator of the GROW model, decided to learn from Timothy Gallwey, and together they created an affiliate of The Inner Game in Great Britain. There, sports clients began to wonder if they could apply the same method in their business operations.
And around the 1990s, business coaching was born.
Since then, we can see that coaching has grown exponentially and expanded in several contexts. The coaches studied various concepts and techniques of systemic psychotherapy. In particular, the work of the Palo Alto team and Milton Erickson, as well as cognitive and behavioral psychotherapies focused on both the present and the future, focusing on quick fixes. Neuro-linguistic programming by Bandler and Grinder is also the source of many of the techniques currently used in coaching.
1st chapter of the book „Coaching: Going Further Inside” by Isabel Freire de Andrade
underlines and links come from Empowerment Coaching
See also other biographies:
Self-coaching: GROW method