The Coach-Athlete Relationship


Lately I’ve been paying more attention to how I handle the relationships I have with my athletes; keeping it professional, of course. I have never realized just how important a good relationship can impact performance. When I was younger I just thought the athlete came in, trained hard, and left. Nothing else was needed. No chit chat. No “how is everything?” Just get them in to train and get them out.

Change in View

Well, my view on the subject has drastically changed. Especially now that I work with high-level athletes. Forming relationships is a great tool to find out if there is anything else, outside of training, that you can help improve. Whether it’s family, financial, or relationship problems, you can probably help your athletes resolve these issues. You’re not just a strength coach and they’re not just a “warm body” and numbers. They are people and, at times, they will need you as a person, not just a strength coach.

Show Them You Care

I’m not sure who originally coined the saying “they don’t care how much you know until you show them how much you care,” but it goes without saying that this is true. You must build trust in the relationships you have with your athletes. If they do not trust you they will not totally buy-in to your program. This can lead to problems that affect their progress and can ultimately affect your reputation (if they do not perform in their sport).

An example would be an athlete who travels internationally for a few weeks and you’ve written a program to take with them. They don’t trust your knowledge/skills as a coach, so they do their own training while they’re away and smoke themselves. Now you have an athlete who is not ready to perform. Is this your fault? Not 100%, but you definitely had a part in it.

Show your athletes you care about them as people and continue to build trust and respect into the relationships. Performance can only improve from these situations.


The ideas, comments and materials presented herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion or otherwise.


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