You might find that you end up with 100 different explanations when you ask the question what is coaching? So, let’s start at the start, with the history shall we, and then see what my thoughts are around the subject.

The History of Coaching & Its Foundations

Coaching itself has it’s roots back in the late 1800’s. Most commonly in connection with sporting activities and academic tuition. It was probably more in line with what we understand as tutoring and mentoring today. Primarily focusing on getting the best out of the player, team or student.

As industrial revolution progressed, and trade unions were becoming more and more recognised, theories around organisation, structure, training and motivation were being explored.

At the start of the 19th century, philosophy was being recognised as an extension of social sciences. At the same time, Psychology was emerging with more and more interest in understanding mental and emotional states. Towards the end of the 19th century, start of the 20th, Psychology was being recognised as a scientific discipline.

However, it wasn’t really until the 60’s that all these things starting coming together and coaching was opening up. Although it wasn’t necessarily referred to as coaching, it was becoming widely adopted in business and management. The 60’s and 70’s saw the beginning of what we would call executive coaching. It was about getting the best out of the individual and workforce.

The Expansion of Coaching

Through the following decades, the 80’s up to early 2000’s, people were questioning and exploring the potential of Coaching more and more. Believing if this process could help get results in sports, academics and business management, then why not other areas of life and business? They were exploring ideas and experimenting further, which resulted in different modalities and practices being developed.

As with most things, it was the higher income pockets that were able to access these services to begin with.

However, more and more people were jumping on board with these ideas and seeing the benefits. As a result of which, services and information became more accessible.

Businesses were employing coaches as standard practice.

From early 2000’s people were beginning to access books, journals and eventually their own life and business coaches as well.

The Coaching Industry Now

Coaching has it’s roots in psychology, sociology, philosophy and business. Neuroscience, spiritual practices, and a variety of belief systems are also now showing up in many coaching practices these days.

As you can see, since the 80’s the coaching industry has grown. Over the years it has gained momentum and has blown up since the early 2000’s. Resulting in the fact that you can find a coach in pretty much any area of life.

From sports to academia. Business and areas of career development, managerial and performance coaching. To health and well-being, fitness, energy, spiritual, parenting… You name it I’m sure there’s a coach for it.


Coaching was always carried out person to person. But, with the advances in technology, coaching sessions are now taking part regularly over the internet. Not only do we have access to a vast array of information, we have access to people on a global level at the touch of a button. People’s options and opportunities are endless. There are so many people offering their services out there now.

Technically, you don’t need qualifications, experience or training to declare yourself a coach. It’s a bit scary, especially when people are offering support in quite emotional, life changing and variable situations. For some people these things don’t matter as long as they are getting the help they need. It’s a very personal point of view, but you can read some of my own thoughts around this over on my blog Qualifications don’t mean you can do the job .

There are however, some larger bodies who have been paving the way in setting out some standards, ethics and values within the industry.  Again, something I personally have mixed views on.

The Perception of Coaching

I know it can sometimes feel like there are coaches for everything, and everyone seems to be a coach for something these days. There are so many different modalities, theories and practices too. Something that often leads to a lot of waffle, vagueness and confusion out there.

It’s one of those things that conjures up different meanings and feelings for different people. I see a lot of mixed messages out there about coaches and coaching.

The fact of the matter is, coaching is like any other industry. There are good, bad, indifferent and exceptional examples.

You have coaches genuinely interested, passionate and great at what they do. Ones that are just out for a quick buck and ones that simply, just don’t have what it takes to do what they’re claiming to.

People are also charging anything from tens of pounds to thousands upon thousands. All of which is regardless of whether an individual has any training, certification or experience!

There is a lot of greatness out there, too.

Think about your own judgements, thoughts and feelings around the industry. Where do these come from, are they your own or someone else’s? Do you have evidence or experience for these thoughts and feelings?

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So, What Is Coaching?

Coaching is a process of working with someone to help them bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Most importantly it’s about creating a space and environment where someone can explore their situation whilst feeling supported and safe.

It’s about empowering and enabling someone to work through what they need to, so they can get closer to where they want to be. It’s about challenging, supporting, encouraging them in exploring, discovering and taking action.

The ICF defines coaching as

“partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

The International Coaching Community says;

“Coaching builds awareness empowers choice and leads to change.”

I really like this one.

Another one that works for me is by John Whitmore. He explained coaching as

“unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their growth”

For Me Coaching is

Working with an individual’s strengths, talents and passions. Enabling them to work beyond the perceived blocks that are preventing them from achieving what they’re trying to.

There’s a great deal of mindset work, as well as practical strategies involved in helping people move forward. It’s about using what they know and what they can do, as a way of uncovering their potential and the possibilities in front of them.

Personally, I have always thought of coaching as a partnership. The power of co-creation (on many levels). And, I still very much value the roots of the industry.

I also resonate with the idea of coaching being akin to sports coaching and what I perceive sports coaching to be.

Tom Landry said

“…It’s getting players to play better than they think that they can.”

and Bill McCartney said

“…coaching is taking a player where he can’t take himself.”

Sports coaching is a mixed bag too. A mix of practical, emotional, mindset. Of mentoring, coaching, encouragement and accountability.

I very much use a variety of techniques, skills and tools. If you’ve read my blog about taking a holistic approach to business, you will already know that I look at individual elements as well as the whole.

In Short

Coaching is working with an individual (or group) to help them get clear, focused and taking action towards success – in whatever way that looks and works for them.

If you would like to work with me you can check out my Catalyst Calls, One to One Packages or simply reach out and get in touch.

I’d also love to know your own thoughts around coaching in the comments below.

Until Next Time, Keep Smiling

Kerry Chumbley Business Development Manager & Coach

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