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YFCS July Blog: What it Means to be a Coach

The Youth, Family, and Community Sciences graduate program publishes a monthly blog written by students, alumni and faculty sharing important topics and helpful resources related to the field of family science. In the July blog post, Autumn Guin highlights what it means to be a coach. Guin holds many titles within NC State and external communities — program design and evaluation Extension associate, Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk Professional Development and Technical Assistance Center (CYFAR PDT) coach and evaluation consultant, and instructor.

What it Means to be a Coach

As a newly minted Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences, I get to teach YFCS 545: Family Communication and Coaching and YFCS 547: Family Life Coaching. Coaching is a part of who I am, an approach to life, and something I do in every community I enter. I am a coach for a national grant program where I meet with program directors and their teams every month to coach them through developing, evaluating, and sustaining research and evidence-based programs for youth and families. I am trained as a family life coach which is about helping individuals, couples, or families reach goals that they set to improve their lives and the lives of their family members. I also volunteer as a leader coach at my church. At the heart of all of this coaching that I get to do, there is a core set of principles and, depending on which hat I’m wearing, it works a bit differently. 

The heart of any type of coaching is moving coaching clients toward “the achievement of a clear stated goal, rather than problem analysis” (Ives, 2008, p. 104). Coaching, which grew from a combination of athletic coaching, humanistic psychology, and positive psychology, is a  “collaborative solution-focused, result-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of life experience and goal attainment in the personal and/or professional life of normal, non-clinical clients” (Grant, 2003, p. 254). It is about using what the client already knows, pulling out through questioning and conversation the experiences and intuitions of the client to move them toward drafting their own pathway to solutions (Ives, 2008). 

The biggest part of coaching is building and maintaining trust and rapport with the coaching client. This requires time, intentionality, and authenticity on the part of the coach and the client (Rogers, 1961). Not only does the relationship have a “significant influence on the positive outcomes of coaching . . . maintaining a positive coaching relationship remains a priority of coaching throughout the coaching process” (Allen, 2016, p. 83; Lai & McDowall, 2014). No matter what type of coaching I am engaged in, the relationship with the coaching client is always at the forefront of my mind. 

The work of coaching looks very similar no matter which type of coaching I am doing. Because coaching is a client-centered, solution-focused process, the work of the coach is to get the client to move toward solutions for their lives or their programs, to set and clarify goals, to create action steps to reach their goals, and to work independently towards those goals (Allen, 2016). Once the coaching client sets and begins working toward goals, as a coach, I become an accountability partner with whom the coaching client checks in during each subsequent session until they reach their goal or decide upon a new goal. 

The biggest differences between the types of coaching that I get to do are the need to understand the research-base and the resources and tools available for each coaching client group I serve. In program coaching work, the focus is on working with program directors and their teams towards creating a quality program that is sustainable. This means knowing the research related to program success factors such as quality program implementation, program sustainability, program development and evaluation, participant recruitment, staff development, community buy-in, and marketing. It also means having deep conceptual understanding and practical experience in all of these areas to share with the coaching clients when they need additional insight and resources to move forward. 

The research base for coaching individuals, couples, and families is broad and includes knowledge in relationships, parenting, youth development, family communication, personal improvement, and health. It also includes broad theoretical knowledge in areas such as humanistic, coaching, community, and positive psychologies, family systems theory, parental attachment theory, and lifespan human development–just to name a few.

What it comes down to is that as a coach, I get to help others dream big, grow as a team or family, and really reach for their goals. If you are passionate like me about making a difference, I invite you to join me in one of the many pathways offered to become a certified Family Life Coach this fall. Here is information on how to do just that through pursuing either the Masters in Youth Family and Community Sciences or a Graduate Certificate in Family Life Coaching.

BIG NEWS! Plans are underway to offer the first-ever Family Life Coaching Certification that is specific to being a family life coach this fall through the Family Life Coaching Association! As the FLCA moves toward this certification, we will be sure to keep you updated, with the hopes that we can offer this certification option to our students in the near future. 


Allen, K. (2016). Theory, research, and practical guidelines for family life coaching. Springer.

Grant, (2003). Grant, A. M. (2003) The impact of life coaching on goal attainment, metacognition and mental health, Social Behavior and personality, 31(3), 253-264. 

Ives, Y. (2008). What is ‘Coaching’? An Exploration of Conflicting Paradigms. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 6(2).

Lai, Y., & McDowall, A. (2014). A systematic review (SR) of coaching psychology: Focusing on the attributes of effective coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 9(2), 118–134.

Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

This post was originally published in Online and Distance Education News.