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Origin of “Coach”

It was so interesting to me when I discovered where the word coach derived from originally.

It all started way back in the fifteenth century in a small town named Kocs, on the main road between Vienna and Budapest, Austria. As the story goes, a transportation company created a carriage with more space and more comfort. It was called a kocsi, short for kocsi szeker or “cart of Kocs.” The concept of the kocsi eventually became popular throughout Europe. In Germany, it was a kutsche; in France, it was called a coche, and in England, it was a coach.

“Coach” as a Metaphor

As time progressed, the meaning has been adapted, and the everyday use of “coach” is a metaphor.

First applied in education, the word “coach” in eighteenth-century England was a verb that referred to tutors helping students prepare for exams. The tutors enabled the students to quickly and comfortably achieve their goal of passing their exams and progressing to the next stage of their education.

When I was a young boy growing up in Arkansas, my father was a pastor, so even though we had a house with four boys, none of us played sports. Thus, we were not introduced to a sports coach, as such. We were all busy helping with the demands of a small congregation. I suspect I could have played for the NFL as a defensive lineman because when I got married, I was a solid 159 pounds of pure muscle. Fortunately, that dream was shattered!

Since then, I have worked with hundreds of collegiate athletes and their coaches for many years. I have seen many cases in which a coach changed a boy’s life! But I still did not connect the dots until recently. You see, for me, the idea of a sports coach yelling and barking out instructions and corrections is what comes to mind when I think about coaching. That is far from the mental image of a comfortable carriage ride that is taking someone from where they are to where they want to go.

Story of a Memorable Coach

Recently I saw a viral video of a high school football coach who realized that he had an opportunity to not just coach football but to help take student athletes on the journey to become young men, both on and off the field.

As the season came to a close with a record of 8–4, the team had made it to the playoffs but was losing in the first round, Coach Cody Gross of Athens, Alabama, decided to start what he called “Manly Mondays.” The concept was to give the male student athletes tools to help them navigate life. “We taught them how to look a man in the eye and give a good, firm handshake,” Gross said. “ And they couldn’t leave the locker room until they did that.”

The coach also taught the young men how to change a flat tire, as well as how to change the oil in a car. “The big thing is, as coaches, we can have a big impact on young men,” he continued. “That’s why I do what I do. When (last) season ended, I felt the need to be more intentional about some of the things we do. We try to model the behaviors we expect.”

“We are trying to teach them life lessons,” he added. “It’s not just about coaching football. Any sport teaches you about life, but I don’t think any sport teaches you the hard knocks of life more than football. You get knocked down. You get back up. It’s a great lesson, but there is more to it than the winning and losing and coaching a kid how to play football.”

Business Coaching

As a business coach, I now define coaching as facilitating intentional conversations that help the person I am engaged with develop a mindset that allows him or her to experience the transformation needed to achieve destiny.

Many times, my coaching sessions go beyond just working with clients on how to create the right systems and business plans. Often, we talk about many areas of life outside their businesses, from relationships with their spouses to how they are working to lead their children. As we try to help leaders become the best they can be, we discover that if they are challenged in leading relationships at work, they have similar challenges away from the workplace.

Practically speaking, here are three ways I provide value as a coach:

I use powerful questions to spur discovery and facilitate growth.

I help clients map out the actions that lead to change.

I focus on the aspirations and agenda of each client.
“Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast, or a bridge player.”
—Bill Gates



Coach is written by Nobel Bowman