The history of coaching


Empowerment Coaching Blog-The history of coaching
University of Oxford by Pexel

IXX Century

According to Wikipedia, the first use of the term coach to refer to the concept of an instructor or trainer appeared around 1830 at the University of Oxford to refer to the tutor who "carried" the student through the exam. The word coaching thus defined a specific process of "transporting people" from where they are to the place they want to be.


As a curiosity, according to one theory, the English word coach comes from the French word coche, which in turn originated from the name of the Hungarian town of Kòcs, where the first carriage (wagon) was constructed in the 16th century. The noun became a verb and the "coachemen" began to describe their activity as coaching. 😊


In 1849, Thackeray describes the coach for the first time as a tutor.


In 1861, the trainer who prepared athletes for competitions at the University of Oxford began to be called the coach.


XX Century

In the twentieth century, the development of coaching was influenced by many areas, in particular the self-development movements that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Such as, for example, the Human Potential Movement and various groups such as LGAT (large-group awareness training), such as, for example, EST (short for Erhard Seminars Training).


In addition, leadership studies began and the development of psychology accelerated. In 2000, the University of Sydney established the world's first coaching psychology research unit, and in the following years, the first academic journals on coaching psychology were published.


Development causes coaching to change from an instruction process to a process that facilitates and supports development. As a result, in 1994 coaching is defined in the academic world as:


A process of continuous on-the-job training conducted by an individual on a regular basis with the intention of developing another person's skills” (Ritter, 1994, p. 7).


As the years go by, the sheer popularity of the coaching approach causes enormous confusion. It moves to the business world. And in the meantime, mentoring begins to develop, about which I will write more in a separate post on David Clutterbuck described as the father of modern mentoring. Clutterbuck writes in 2008:

"At the same time as we begin to clarify what makes for effective coaching and mentoring,however, the very popularity of the approach has resulted in greater confusion. Almost everyrelated profession has participated in a land-grab, trying to stake out its own coaching territory,with definitions, rules and practices based on its own particular perspectives and interests."

This great "boom" is probably best shown in the following graph:


The History of Coaching - citations 1935-2019
Source: International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring 2021, Vol. 19(1)

So let's at least try to find out and determine what is clear and unquestionable in the history of coaching development.


Business Coaching

The "authorship" of the concept of Performance Coaching and the laying of the foundations for the billion-dollar business coaching industry is rather unquestionable.


The creator of the concept of Performance Coaching was Sir John Whitmore (1937-2017). Sir John coined the term in the 1980s to describe this self-directed learning process and to distinguish it from sports coaching. As a co-creator of the GROW coaching model (short for Goal, Reality, Options, Will), he created a foundation that has been adopted by business coaches all over the world.


All this is described in the groundbreaking book Coaching for Performance, which is referred to as the bible of business coaching or the GROW method coaching.


In 1992, together with the aforementioned David Clutterbuck and 3 others, he founded one of the most famous coaching organizations in the world today, EMCC (European Mentoring & Coaching Council). According to data from this organization, at the end of 2018, it had 6,000 members from 61 countries around the world.


Life Coaching

Almost at the same time, something is happening overseas that will also have a huge impact on the development of coaching in the world. And once again it shows how this discipline is developing in different ways. As reported by Polish Chamber of Coaching, Genesis of Coaching:


(...) Representatives of the world of business and science quickly became interested in the effects of cooperation between coaches and athletes. In 1992, the first coaching school was established - Coach University*. Its founder, Thomas Leonard, an accountant and financial analyst from San Francisco, during meetings with clients, noticed that individual conversations about their private lives bring remarkable results in his work. Leonard's observations laid the foundation for the development of life coaching*. Thomas Leonard's contribution to the evolution and popularization of coaching was not limited to establishing a coaching school. In 1994 he founded the International Coach Federation* and in 2000 with Dave Buck he founded CoachVille, the largest online coaching community in the world.(...)

* underlines from Empowerment Coaching.


According to data from the ICF (abbreviation of International Coaching Federation), in 2018 the population of coaches certified by this organization exceeds 25,000 and they are present in 78 countries around the world.


Interestingly, Sir John Whitmore is involved in the development of ICF for which in 2007 he is awarded the ICF President's Award. In turn, the British newspaper Independent announces him the Best Business Coach, and the International Association of Coaching (founded in the USA in 2003) recognizes him in 2013 as the person with the greatest influence on the coach profession in the world.


I will present the biography of Sir John Whitmore in a separate post. He was a colorful character (for example, he participated in Le Mans car races for many years), and his achievements go beyond coaching.


For the sake of order and compliance with historical truth, it should also be said that in 1980 Erickson Coaching International is founded in Canada, by Marilyn Atkinson, a student of the well-known psychologist Milton Erickson. According to data from this company, 4 500 coaches in 36 countries around the world have been trained to date. And the certificates issued by this school comply with the ICF standard. Apart from coaching, an important part of Erickson's activity is also the NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) method.