So…What is Coaching Anyway?

If I asked you to give me a definition of counseling, there is a good chance you would be able to do so. This definition would probably come from the fact that you’ve either personally experienced it or know somebody who has.

However, if I asked you to define personal coaching, you would probably have a harder time. Most people have never had a personal coach. Some people have heard coaching exists but know very little about it. Others have never heard of it and wouldn’t know where to start. Regardless of how much you know about it, personal coaching can be one of the most valuable investments you make in your life.

Coaching is a relatively new practice that, as a service, began in the mid-1990s. It started in the business world as a result of executives seeing a connection between successes in their professional lives and successes in their personal lives. These executives began hiring coaches to help them navigate both areas with very successful results. These very capable individuals – people who were running Fortune 500 companies – were reaching even greater potentials because of outside help provided by coaches. As a result, the coaching movement exploded, both in the business and non-business worlds.

What exactly do coaches do?

I will never forget my final season playing college soccer. I attended a small, Christian college in southeast Pennsylvania. I played three seasons while attending, and each year the teams were made up of both seasoned veterans and those who had never kicked a soccer ball before in their lives. In the 30+ games I had participated in over the years, the team won a total of 4 games, 1 of which was a forfeit. In fact, the college had not had a winning season in over 20 years. Needless to say, when I arrived for camp my senior year I wasn’t expecting much out of the season. I wanted to win, but I just loved playing, and my love for the game covered a multitude of sins – and losses.

We had a new coach that year. After our first practice, he gathered us together in the locker room. As the meeting started, I noticed he had written something on the whiteboard:


Referring to what he had written, he asked the team, “What are you trying to accomplish this season?” Before we could answer, he quickly followed up with, “And don’t say to go undefeated. That’s not going to happen. No teams go undefeated in this league. If you don’t set a realistic goal yourselves, then you’ll never find success. Besides, that’s probably why this team hasn’t had a winning season in 20 years. So let’s set a realistic goal.” Then he walked out of the room instructing us to come up with one.

We spent the next ten minutes or so brainstorming. Several goals were suggested, but we all agreed on one. Our coach walked back in and asked us what we had come up with. Our answer: we wanted to have a winning season. We had 17 games on the schedule that year. That meant that we would have to win at least 9 of them. Our coach agreed with us that our goal was attainable. He then told us he would do everything he could to help us get there and hold us accountable to the goal every step of the way.

What happened that season was nothing short of amazing. We actually found ourselves winning games. We were beating teams that we had never beaten before. We weren’t dominating games, but we would find ways to win. Often we would find ourselves down in the score at half time, and our coach would remind us of the goal we had set for ourselves in the locker room at the beginning of the season. He would provide appropriate insight and instruction to help us win the game in the second half. And if we didn’t pull out the win, he used it as a teaching opportunity. Never to shame us. Never to make us feel bad. Only to make us better players and a better team.

After the final whistle of the season, our record showed 9 wins, 8 loses.

A winning season.

The first one for the college in over 20 years.

What was the difference that season versus previous ones? It depends on who you ask. People on the outside would attribute it any number of factors. But I have a different opinion. The difference was good coaching.

From the very first day, our coach inspired us to set a realistic goal and supported us along the way to meet it. He provided perspective, correction, encouragement, and accountability. As a team, we already had the potential within us to have a winning season. What we needed was a good coach to pull it out of us. And he did.

Personal coaching

Just as a good sports coach can pull out the potential in an athlete, a good personal coach can pull out the potential in your life. A personal coach can help you clarify realistic goals, set up a plan for success, and provide perspective, correction, encouragement, and accountability along the way. Reality is, you already possess potential inside of you to accomplish a variety of goals and overcome many challenges. What you may be missing is someone to bring it out. That’s what personal coaches do.

People often ask me what I do as a personal coach. My answer is pretty simple: “I help people solve problems so they can reach their potential.” Just like my college soccer coach helped our team solve a 20 year problem by unlocking the potential inside of us, personal coaches can unlock potential for any number of issues a person is facing in their life. Some examples of these issues include managing time, managing stress, marriage, divorce, family, parenting, relationships, finances, health, personal disciplines, and navigating life changes. Other examples may include professional development in business, continuing education, or leadership development. For some, it’s spiritual development. Practically speaking, there are endless issues for which coaching could provide help.

What’s the difference between counseling and coaching?

Coaching is in no way, shape, or form a replacement for counseling. Counseling provides a pathway to emotional healing for individuals who have experienced hardships and trauma. The goal of coaching is not to provide healing. Rather, coaching provides a way to grow when you feel stuck in some area of your life. Coaching can be done in addition to counseling, but never instead of it.

I am convinced that everybody at some point in their life could benefit from both a counseling and coaching relationship. Up until recently, most counselors felt the responsibility to provide the healing of therapy as well as the personal growth of coaching. Today, this can be done separately, and in my view, can provide a better quality of care in both areas.

What is is like to be coached?

Though coaching is different from counseling, it shares a lot of similarities in its general practice. Both involve talking and listening. Put most simply, a coaching session involves sitting down one-on-one with a coach and having a conversation. During the conversation, the coach asks questions to understand and clarify your current situation as well as where you want to get to in a particular area of your life. Additionally, they help you come up with a tangible and achievable plan to get there. A good coach will also set up a working accountability structure that will help you meet goals step by step. Coaching usually happens over a series of sessions because follow up is necessary for the support and accountability essential to success. Just like a sports coach is with you throughout the season, a personal coach walks with you until the goal is reached. 

What now?

Perhaps you read this article out of sheer curiosity just to learn what personal coaching was all about. My hope is that some of your questions were answered. If you still have questions, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment.

However, there is a good chance that as you read you started to think, “Maybe there is an area or two in my life that could really benefit from coaching.” I believe wholeheartedly that if that’s you, coaching would be a great investment in your life. If that’s the case, I am here to help you!

The Hope Company is already scheduling coaching clients beginning in September. If you would like to schedule a session or hear more about the different types of coaching we offer, you are invited to call us or email us