Home Research History of Coaching Professional Challenges Facing the Coaching Field from an Historical Perspective

Professional Challenges Facing the Coaching Field from an Historical Perspective

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Coaching emerged during the postmodern period of the late twentieth century, born of a rapidly changing socioeconomic environment and nourished by the root disciplines of psychology, business, sports, and adult education. Now, approximately twenty years later, as we look forward to the professional challenges the field is facing today, we can benefit from the perspective we have gained on its short but explosive history. That history, characterized by the interaction between and the cross-disciplinary development of its root disciplines, is further complicated by the generational differences and varying professional backgrounds of its originators, as well as the changing socioeconomic conditions of the period.

The business and personal coaching field evolved during the second half of the 20th century from an intersection of people, disciplines and socioeconomic factors — characterized by generational and linked patterns of influence. Coaching entered the global mainstream at the turn of the 21″ century amidst a proliferation of training organizations, professional associations, media coverage — and the blossoming of evidence-based coaching. In this article I will share two observations about the coaching field, look at three challenges facing the coaching field, and ultimately describe one possible future for coaching.


First, coaching sprang simultaneously from several independent sources and birthplaces, and then spread through a complex and somewhat unpredictable series of relationships. This initial stage occurred during the 1960s, an era of unprecedented personal and professional exploration and growth. The Human Potential movement, a product of those times, gave us Esalen, the National Training Laboratories (NTL), Tavistock, and Findhorn, among many others, and the rapid diffusion of coaching was fueled by a series of serendipitous, interdisciplinary gatherings in the above venues. The key figures in those meetings, long before technological advances made such interaction much easier, connected through face-to-face conferences, workshops, and forums.

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