Improving The Coach-Athlete Relationship
A few times every year, the sports world gets a wake-up call when the negative actions of a coach are publicized. Certainly, the videos released of Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice verbally and physically abusing his players has forced other schools, clubs and sporting organizations to examine their own programs to be sure that similar behavior was not being tolerated. It also provides an opportunity to learn more about the entire coach-athlete relationship and how to build a mutually rewarding partnership. Dr. Sophia Jowett of Loughborough University has developed and researched a model framework that helps improve the quality of this relationship.
Unfortunately, for every story like Rice’s that comes to light, there may be many similar situations that stay hidden as student athletes fear retaliation, loss of scholarships, playing time or even a place on the roster. Traditionally, the coach-athlete relationship has been one of coach authority and athlete obedience. However, research by sport psychologists like Jowett have emphasized how a healthy relationship and mutual understanding will benefit both sides with better athlete performances.
Jowett, who has pioneered this type of research over the last 15 years, contends that this relationship is at the core of sport. “The coach–athlete relationship is not an add-on to, or by-product of, the coaching process, nor is it based on the athlete’s performance, age or gender – instead it is the foundation of coaching,” Jowett wrote in The Psychologist. “The coach and the athlete intentionally develop a relationship, which is characterised by a growing appreciation and respect for each other as individuals.”
To establish a vocabulary and framework for discussion, Jowett developed what she calls the 3+1 Cs model – Closeness, Commitment and Complementarity. One additional angle that has been added is Co-orientation.
According to Jowett’s definitions:
Closeness describes the emotional tone of the relationship and reflects the degree to which the coach and the athlete are connected or the depth of their emotional attachment. Coaches and athletes’ expressions of like, trust, respect and appreciation indicate a positive interpersonal and affective relationship.
Commitment reflects coaches and athletes’ intention or desire to maintain their athletic partnership over time; it is viewed as a cognitive representation of connection between the coach and the athlete.
Complementarity defines the interaction between the coach and the athlete that is perceived as cooperative and effective. Complementarity reflects the affiliation motivation of interpersonal behaviours and includes behavioural properties, such as being responsive, friendly, at ease and willing.
Adding to these three components is Co-orientation, a method to determine the perceptions that the coach and athlete have of each other. From two different perspectives, direct and meta, three different dimensions of Co-orientation can be uncovered:
– Actual similarity (e.g.‘I trust my coach’ and ‘I trust my athlete’)
– Assumed similarity (e.g.‘I trust my coach’ and ‘I think my coach trusts me’)
– Empathic understanding (e.g.‘I think my coach trusts me’ and ‘I trust my athlete’)
“While our research is ongoing, we now have more research findings than ever before to show how pivotal the quality of the coach-athlete relationship is for athletes and coaches’ experience of sport,” Jowett said. “It is important to educate athletes and coaches at all levels of participation of the vital role effective coach-athlete relationships can ultimately play in their success and satisfaction.”
The key to achieving the 3+1 Cs is daily communications about athlete variables such as training loads, attitudes/moods, and injuries/soreness. Overall, these factors contribute to a “readiness to train” score which offers an objective signal to the coach and athlete about potential setbacks to training and performance. Tracking and reviewing this data in an athlete monitoring system will help avoid misunderstandings that degrade the relationship.
“Ultimately, the generated knowledge and understanding will help coaches create a certain type of relationship that athletes can use toward becoming independent, self-reliant, disciplined and successful athletes and persons,” concluded Jowett.
Metrifit is an athlete monitoring system that gathers subjective and objective information from both coaches and athletes in a simple but effective manner with intelligent visualization helping coaches and athletes to act on that data. Why not have a look at our Ready to Perform product and gain insight on the physical and mental state of your athletes through our daily wellbeing questionnaire? To find out more visit our Metrifit Product Overview page or get in touch for a free demo.
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