The purpose of this project was to investigate elite athletes’ perceptions of S&C coaches, specifically, (1) their character traits; (2) their effective behaviors that display these traits; and (3) how coach-athlete relationships were fostered. The results support previous research that highlighted the effectiveness of instruction and technical knowledge (3, 14, 17, 29-31, 39), but further recognizes the importance of transferable skills to the S&C coach (39). The findings of the current study supports the relationship being dyadic (21).
Openness and honesty are central to building positive coach-athlete relationships (43). The use of humor has been linked to how well liked the coach is (4, 16), enhanced communcation (15) and indirectly may improve performance (38).
Continual observation of the athlete’s response to the coach’s behavior will enable the coach to make changes necessary to their communication style, behavior or action to increase the likelihood of achieving the desired outcome (27). Athlete responses in the current study highlight the importance of adaptability within the coaching approach and the need to individualize training programs. Accurate and timely feedback is required to improve performance, but considerations need to be made for how it is delivered (42), with concise, constructive feedback preferred (32). Taking an interest in the athlete beyond the sports environment also enhances the closeness of the relationship (34).
Coach-athlete relationships are built over time, with prolonged engagement being advantageous for positive relations (35). Success in a coach-athlete relationship was possible where they work together toward one goal i.e. a “shared purpose” (25) with athletes in the present study highly valuing the mutual goal setting process. Athletes go through positive and negative experiences and periods, and the S&C coach is in a position to provide both problem-focused and emotional support. Szedlak, Smith, Day and Greenlees (39) reported athletes positively perceived coaches who provided encouragement, inspiration and reassurance, and the responses from the athletes in this study support this.