The Coach-Athlete Relationship

Think about it. When you were playing sports or in the classroom, did you ever have a coach or teacher that made learning so fun you did not want to leave? Or when you were not having the best day, was that person able to cheer you up and get you back on your feet, performing your best? Or did you have that one coach or teacher that pushed you to be the best you could be, while still being supportive and understanding? I know I did.

The coach-athlete relationship is said to be one of the most important bonds when playing sports and could significantly boost an athlete’s performance levels and self-confidence. On the other hand, a negative coaching experience can significantly turn athlete’s away from playing a sport they may love.

What is the definition of a coach? Whether in sports or daily life, a coach is someone who provides instruction, direction, and guidance for a number of individuals or groups. A coach may also be referred to as a teacher, instructor, friend, and mentor. With regards to sports, the coach does not only have to focus on the team’s record throughout the season, but also how to facilitate learning in the most appropriate environment and how to effectively motivate their athletes to perform at their highest potential.

The coach-athlete relationship involves the interdependence of the coach’s and the athlete’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they interact with one another. This relationship resides in the foundation of coaching and is able to promote the athlete’s physical as well as their psycho-social skills.

With that said, the coach-athlete bond may be the most important relationship when it comes to sport at all ages. With mutual trust, respect, cooperation, collaboration and communication, coaches are able to help develop that athlete and create a positive environment for learning. Although relationships are a two-way street, coaches must be able to reach out to the athlete and pursue a real connection for the individual to see them as a role model or mentor.

The coach-athlete relationship does not happen instantaneously; however, involves some time and quality interactions (sometimes outside the realm of sports) to help develop the bond over the long-term.

In my opinion, I believe that the coach plays a major role in how much the athlete enjoys the sport and will continue to play it in the future, especially with the younger ages. If the coach is supportive, empathetic, and sincerely wants to see the athlete reach their goals, the relationship between the coach and athlete will be a positive experience for both parties.

A strong coach-athlete relationship may led to an enhanced performance of each individual athlete, overall happiness within the sport and a superior self-concept for the athlete. Studies have shown that when athletes feel comfortable with the coach, they are more likely to step out of their comfort zone, push the boundaries, and take risks in order to reach their highest potential. Furthermore, a strong relationship between the coach and athlete affects not just the individual player but also the team as a whole, both performance and positive morale.


The coach-athlete relationship is necessary for development of both physical and social skills for the athlete. The coach and athlete must be willing to work together as a team and communicate with each other to help reach the goals individually as an athlete, but also as a team.

When coaches have the”win-at-all-costs” mentality, the players eventually adopt that attitude exemplifying poor sportsmanship and even selfish behavior towards teammates and the opponents. However, if coaches can promote a positive and supportive environment through communication, relationship-building, cooperation, trust and respect; athletes have the opportunity for personal growth both in sports and everyday life.

Be that coach that everyone wants to have, and no one wants to forget ! 

Any comments, thoughts, opinions, or stories, feel free to share in the comment section below !


Chery Bennett is the Domestic Development Intern at Canada Basketball. She is currently pursuing her Graduate Certificate in Sport Business Management at Humber College, and has a passion for basketball and a former athlete within the sport.

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