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Fostering Strong Relationships Between Coaches and Athletes

Sophie Deeling explains how to foster a strong relationship between a coach and their athletes.

The relationship between a coach and their athletes is a key component to any kind of success in the sporting world, and many trainers strive to establish these as strongly as they can, with each one of their players. Doing so not only assists the coach in understanding the motives and drives of each competitor but also highlights the fact that the athlete is appreciated as a person.

In other words, it serves to confirm that the coach cares about them individually and does not simply see them athletes that must follow today's trends, or as cogs in a machine that must win at all costs! Of course, there are different kinds of coaching styles, each favouring a particular aspect of this relationship, but the quality of the association itself remains a vital part of a victory.

The relationship between a coach and their athletes should be a beneficial one: athletes should be able to communicate their frustrations, struggles, and ideas with their coach, and this will, in turn, allow the coach to implement better strategies when it comes to training their players.

It involves problem solving, understanding, patience, and trust from both parties in order to fully reap the rewards, but the coach has to be said to be the key to creating resilient relationships. And, as punters who enjoy Australian sports betting will be only too happy to attest to, a strong player/coach relationship usually means more wins, more often.

Communication is Key

One of the most vital elements of a good relationship between coaches and athletes is open and honest communication. With clear communication, coaches are able to lead, direct, and manage their players and teams more efficiently. In return, the team itself and the individuals comprising it are able to vocalise their ideas and share their concerns, which will benefit everybody. Coaches need to consider every situation independently of the rest, as well as appraise each athlete individually, in order to decide which method of communication will work the best. Democratic styles are usually the best strategy in terms of coaching, but autocratic methods can also work.

Autocratic coaching methods are defined by trainers telling more than listening, and can be beneficial, but only when total trust is present in the relationship. Democratic coaching styles foster more open communications, often leading to group discussions, and require both parties to speak and listen. A lack of communication is deadly, however, and coaches struggling with this will quickly find athletes under-performing, not listening to explicit instructions no matter which style these are delivered in and will have to eventually deal with dissonance throughout the team.

Players Thrive Off of Positive Reinforcement

Building athletes up by means of positive support and active encouragement helps them to not only accomplish their own personal goals in terms of the sport they are involved in but will ensure that they are a constructive part of the team, if there is one, as well. Coaches who help build self-esteem and add visualisation techniques to complement physical training will reap huge rewards, as these kinds of mind training tools greatly increase the chances of an athlete or team achieving success.

Implementing positive reinforcement does not require that coaches ignore the areas that need working on. It will generally make a bitter pill easier to swallow, however, and trainers may well find that their criticisms are more quickly attended to in terms of performance when accompanied by an acknowledgement of excellence.

If positive reinforcement is consistently applied, coaches are likely to see their players' levels of self-confidence increase, and this, in turn, will help them discover their own inner motivation and ensure that improvements are even more rapidly accomplished. Self-motivated athletes and teams can far more easily rise above the various challenges they will inevitably be faced with, and these will find success far more easily.

Coaches Need to Stay Available

Especially when it comes to inter-scholastic sports, coaches who ensure they can be approached are those that are able to foster meaningful and rewarding relationships with their players. Acting as a mentor and an advisor, trainers need to ensure that the team and players know that they are available whenever needed. Younger athletes particularly need advice, and, at times, may be looking for a leader. By staying available and engaged, coaches are able to create the opportunity to really help foster young talent and can complete the kind of groundwork that will serve the young player very well later on in their career.

It has to be said that available coaches are coaches that have strong relationships with their athletes, and this kind of availability may well require that additional time is made provision for outside of practice. These kinds of meetings are a great way to establish trust, however, and lasting relationships are often the result of this kind of individual attention.

Trust is the Cornerstone of a Strong Bond

All relationships work thanks to trust, and those fostered because of mutual involvement in sports are no different. Coaches who desire strong relationships with their athletes need to make sure that they earn, and keep, not only the individual players' trust but the collective trust of the team as well. The good news is that, when coaches communicate clearly, provide consistent positive reinforcement, and are always available to their athletes, trust is generally going to be one of the results of this kind of behaviour.

Once this has been established, coaches can look forward to their athletes listening more closely to advice, and with fewer questions, and their players enjoying their sporting activities more thoroughly, too.

Nobody is Just a Coach

With the kinds of behaviours outlined here, coaches are able to become far more than just a voice on the field, and they can transform into advisors and provide the kind of support and mentoring that athletes of all ages need in order to succeed. Physical performance levels are inextricably linked to both emotional and mental health, and coaches who take a holistic approach to their teaching will find that they are able to draw out consistently better performances from their players.

Coaches need to make sure they get and stay, involved. For them to reach true success as trainers, and ensure their athletes are able to do the same in their given disciplines, they need to engage and connect on levels that extend far beyond simple instructions on how to play.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • DEELING, S. (2018) Fostering Strong Relationships Between Coaches and Athletes [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Sophie Deeling is an exercise physiologist based in Sydney, Australia, who brings a Bachelor of Applied Science in Exercise and Sport Science to bear when analysing patients' fitness as part of her day job. With her interest in a broad range of athletics, ranging from rugby through to soccer and swimming, she is an in-demand guest speaker and writer all over the world. Sophie thinks that the relationship between athletes and their trainers has a massive impact on performance.

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