Connected Histories: Coaching and Fielding
By Leni Wildflower, HOD alumnus
When I began to write the book I had decided to call The Hidden History of Coaching, something fantastic happened. My research into the origins of coaching led me to a cluster of social, spiritual and intellectual movements that shaped much of what we associate with the progressive developments of the 60s and 70s. I found myself reconsidering personal experiences that had had a profound impact on me during those years.
At the same time, I began to think with new insight about a later stage of my life, my time at Fielding. Common threads began to emerge, linking all three: the values and principles of coaching, my own coming of age, and the institution that became my intellectual home as a student and a teacher for almost 20 years.
As a student in the 1960s I was deeply moved by the political, social, and cultural shifts that were emerging. I quit College to work for Students for a Democratic Society, living and doing community organizing in poor urban and rural communities. I became involved in the women’s movement, went to spiritual intensives, and read psychology extensively.
After raising a family while working full time, I entered Fielding as a PhD student. I thought of this as a distinct new phase in my life, though, like so many of my fellow students, I knew I was bringing with me a wealth of accumulated experience and personal knowledge. Coaching, as a professional activity and a subject of academic curiosity, came later still.
But in writing The Hidden History of Coaching, I began to see how much of what I was calling our “coaching heritage” was the same mix of influences out of which Fielding had grown. I began to sense an unexpected coherence in these different phases of my life and in the heritage I share with other Fielding alumni.
To take just two examples from The Hidden History:
On February 1, 1960, four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina sat down in the ‘whites only’ section of a Woolworth’s lunch counter and refused to leave. This took extraordinary courage. The next day 24 students returned to join the demonstration. Within a month, there were 70,000 sitting in all across the South. By July of that year, Woolworths had integrated its lunch counters.
Meanwhile at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, people were gathering to discuss possibilities for human growth. This was a period of intellectual and social ferment when people were thrown together in unprecedented ways. Barriers were broken down. Gender roles were challenged, settled structural arrangements disrupted, moral lines redrawn. Esalen served as a prism, taking in light and refracting it in many directions.
Though times have changed, as Fielding alums, students, faculty and staff, it is important to remember how much we owe to this period. For a whole range of reasons, new possibilities for people were emerging. At the heart of these various movements was the idea that human beings could be greater, achieve more freedom, and accomplish more than had been commonly imagined.
Leni Wildflower has 20 years experience as an executive coach, author and educator, working in the US, UK, Europe, China and Latin America. Her passion as a coach is to inspire clients to reach new levels of clarity and effectiveness.
As an innovator and thoughtleader on coaching as a profession, a discipline and a craft, she developed the ground-breaking programme of evidence-based coach training at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, and co-edited the definitive The Handbook of Knowledge Based Coaching: From Theory to Practice. She is an expert on blended learning and online education.
To contact Leni Wildflower: firstname.lastname@example.org