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Coaching the Young Client

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Concluding Comments

In this essay, we have tried to make the case for extending the demographic range of professional coaching to those who are older than the typical current client and, in particular, to those who are younger. We have focused in particular on young adults who are in graduate school or are working as high potentials in organizational settings. What about those potential clients who are even younger? There are now “learning coaches” in colleges who assist students with their study habits, retention of information, analysis of complex academic themes, and, even more basically learning, how to live away from home (if they are enrolled in a residential college or university).

Can professional coaching extend to an even younger age? Wouldn’t high school students benefit from a “learning coach”?  What about training young men and women to be peer coaches in a high school setting? Can coaching be of value when addressing the problems of bullying in junior high schools and high schools? Can coaching be of value in reducing the rate of drop out in many high schools? What would coaching look like with children in elementary school? Two of our colleagues, Jeannine Sandstrom and Lee Smith, had their remarkable leadership training program (Sandstrom and Smith, 2008) revamped for use with students in elementary school—and it works!

So the demographic challenge is there. How young can a client be if they are to benefit from professional coaching? What might this coaching look like and what issues might be most effectively addressed through a coaching process? Perhaps, as a colleague of ours in Asia has noted, professional coaching is a bit like having an uncle or aunt (rather than a parent) assist us in addressing the issues we face as leaders. Maybe the older coach serving young people is like having a wise aunt or uncle. Perhaps the youthful peer coach is like a wise (or at least empathetic) brother or sister. Couldn’t we all have used this type of wise and empathetic counsel when we were young!

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