What is coaching?
The term coaching originates from the word “coach”, a medium of transport. In 19th century England the word “coach” came to be used to describe a private teacher who assisted students preparing for exams. The transposition of a word for transport to a name for a teacher came about for these 19th century exam preparation teachers due to the students’ conception that they were being driven through the examinations or were able to ride through the examinations on a coach with the help of their prep teachers. In some recent conceptions of mentoring, the word “coach” is used metaphorically as the guide who assists the mentee on her inner journey. The coach assists the mentee to improve her own abilities, by developing mental or practical skills (Skagen 2004).
Coaching as a form of mentoring was originally developed in American sports. The Norwegian football coach Knut Rockne was a pioneer in developing the sports coach as mentor concept. It was, however, tennis coach Timothy Gallwey who popularized the coach as mentor guiding the mentee on an inner journey model. Gallwey claimed that the key to becoming a good tennis player, is to master what he calls the “inner game”. His book “The Inner Game of Tennis” became an inspiration for several names in coaching, i.e. Myles Downey and John Whitmore.
Gallwey alleged that relaxed concentration is essential to mastering the game of tennis. The player must not criticize or judge his own achievements. Paradoxically, the secret to winning a game is not trying too hard. The player must concentrate on the game and not on winning. To enable the release of energy and resources and maximization of the performance it is imperative to enter into a state of serenity. This state does not need to be learned, as it is part of us, but we may have acquired bad habits that prevent us from entering it. To reach this productive state we should not analyze our actions, but rather create images of ourselves performing good actions. We must stop judging our own shortcomings in a negative way. This requires us to separate between an observation of our actions on one side, and an evaluation of this observation on the other. This optimal state, as described by Gallwey, has similarities with Csikszentmihalyi‘s notion of flow (Skagen 2004). Coaching as mentoring has later been introduced in executive coaching, business coaching and life coaching. Additionally, several other types of coaching have emerged. The term is today more often than not used as a reflective and conversational method whereby one person assists another to realize the maximum potential of their abilities in a particular area (Skagen 2004).
– Skagen, Kaare (2004) I veiledningens landskap. Kristiansand: Høgskoleforlaget.