Kids Sports News Network

The Relationship Between Coach and Athlete

A healthy coach and player relationship is one of the most important aspects for development of youth athletes as well as team performance.

A healthy coach and player relationship is one of the most important aspects for development of youth athletes as well as team performance.

The Relationship between Coach and Athlete

Temper and anxiety levels affect your training. Many athletes and all amateurs also have full-time jobs and family obligations. It’s normal to be stressed, and this stress level can impact your training and racing. A coach, devising a program or getting an athlete prepared for a huge race, needs to take these situations into account. You should keep your coach updated on almost everything that is going on with your life. You don’t have to give the full details, but it’s a good idea to keep them abreast of your disposition and anxiety levels. This will help your coach create a program that is flexible enough to put up with the unavoidable life issues that emerge for most people over time.


As a coach, it is your job to effectively communicate to your athlete what you expect from them: what behaviors you will not tolerate, what excuses you will not hear, and at what time you expect them to show up to the gym. You must also be able to understand your athlete’s personality. One size does not fit all in weightlifting. The carrot and the stick works well for some, but not all. If someone is an introvert and doesn’t respond well to loud public criticism, maybe don’t berate them for a missed lift in a crowded gym. Instead pull them aside and address the issues in the lift. Anything else and you may run the risk of alienating a good lifter. On the flip side make sure you praise the extrovert in that crowded gym if he did something well.

A coach should be accessible to his athletes. Does this mean 24/7 access? To some athletes it does but it’s up to you to set your boundaries. If you have a Crisis Cathy or an Apocalypse Andy who blows up your phone every 30 seconds, discuss boundaries with them if you need them. I use my “Do Not Disturb” switch on my phone for Cathy and Andy, that way I can check their messages once I have the time (or the patience). Even then I try not to let too much time pass between their messages if it’s a true blue crisis or apocalypse.

Make it clear from the start what type of relationship you want to establish. Much like the parent/child relationship, you can’t be your athlete’s best friend all the time. You can be friends with them, and you should want to be to establish a level of trust with them, but there comes a time when you have to be hard or demanding. Once again this depends on you and your athlete’s personalities. If you are comfortable being a friend, mentor, therapist, and/or hand-holder, then by all means go for it. Just remember to take time for yourself and to not let your athletes utter drain you emotionally.


As an athlete, it’s important to remember you are not the end all, be all of your coach’s world. He has a team full of special snowflakes. He has a job, and maybe even a family. That being said, you deserve a coach who makes time for you, but you have to make time for them and their training.

Keep track of your workouts. Reps, sets, fatigue, failure and sleep patterns, each detail is crucial to your success in this sport. Your coach absolutely needs that data in order to effectively program for you and your goals. If you don’t send him your information, or if he has to hound you for it, don’t blame someone else if the wheels fall off of your lifting train.

Come to the gym ready to work. Time is precious and if you waste your coach’s time, you may not be on the team much longer. It’s cliché, but there are plenty of other people who would love to take your spot. Your coach spent time planning your session so show up raring to go.

Parents need to trust their instincts. When the athlete who was enthusiastic about joining the team becomes discouraged and sullen, it might be a sign that something’s wrong. It’s one thing to be temporarily discouraged from a bad game or a missed shot and then shake it off, but when your kid loses enthusiasm for the sport, doesn’t smile when she gets in the car after practice or a game, and doesn’t want to talk about it, something is wrong and the situation must be examined — and repaired.

Athletes who play for coaches who are more concerned with their own needs than those of their players, may occasionally experience outward success if they manage to stay in the sport long enough. These athletes may be part of a winning team or championship effort. They may even win gold medals. However, the emotional price that these athletes end up paying in the long run for their “success” is an extremely high one. The damage that abusive coaches can do to pre-adolescent and adolescent athletes often haunts them well into adulthood, negatively shaping their future performance experiences and relationships both in and out of competitive sports. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, identity issues and recurring performance problems are often the result of this kind of negative coaching. Abusive coaching is a serious epidemic in our society and it is time that responsible adults, i.e. other coaches, level-headed parents and competent professionals step up to the plate and drive this garbage out of the ballpark once and for all.


Unfortunately, most coaches who engage in abuse also refuse to take an honest look at themselves. Because of a well honed sense of denial, they would never admit to themselves or others that they might be doing something wrong. In fact, the abusive coach sees him/herself as a very good coach!


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