Sport and exercise psychology research has largely studied the interpersonal dynamics between coaches and athletes from a leadership approach. Emphasis is placed on how behaviors are perceived by the athletes and the coaches themselves, and their relative impact on outcomes such as satisfaction, self-esteem, and performance.
The coach-athlete relationship is viewed as a key component to athletes’ performance and wellbeing outcomes. Although knowledge and understanding of interpersonal relationships in sport were constrained at both theoretical and empirical levels, progress has been made in recent years. This progress is reflected in two special issues dedicated to coach-athlete relationships.
While coach-athlete relationships have been a relatively new area of inquiry, coach behaviors and leadership have been at the forefront of research since the 1970s. Although both coach leadership behaviors and coach-athlete relationships have been viewed as central to coaching effectiveness due to their associations with positive and negative psychosocial, emotional, motivational, and performance outcomes, these constructs have been typically studied in isolation with limited attempt to integrate them. It would appear that coach leadership behaviors and coaching relationships act synergistically.
There are three key areas to a successful coach-athlete relationship: coaching behavior, communication, and coaching style.
Coaching behavior, whether of a team or individual sports, is to determine the differences between the two in the effectiveness of coaching, where it has a main effect on the quality and the success of the athletic experience. Team sports requires the coach to focus on teamwork, confidence, guidance, and support, and create a unity. Whereas in individual sports, the behavior of the coach focuses on the athlete.
The second key area, communication. Effective communication within a team is an essential element for the development and maintenance of team structure. The importance in a sport environment of communication between coaches and their athletes to proactively prevent athlete burnout. In addition, one of the most important reasons why communication is receiving increased attention as an important factor in the field of sports is that the atmosphere of practice and training, participation, and performance are affected by how athletes perceive the coach’s method of communication.
And finally, the third key area is the coaching style. Several previous studies based on the self-determination theory have consistently demonstrated that autonomy-supportive coaching behaviors by leaders in the sports field are more effective than behaviors that are controlling. Moreover, these studies provide evidence for the argument that coaches should pursue and utilize methods that empathize with, and support, the athletes.
The coaches’ behaviors play a decisive role in helping individuals or groups reach their goals, as they are better motivators, make better strategy decisions, better coaching techniques and these can have an impact on athletes’ choosing to specialize in this sport.
Indeed, both supportive and unsupportive coaching behaviors are linked with the quality of the partnership. The coach-athlete relationship is viewed as a key component to athletes’ performance and wellbeing outcomes. Although, both coach leadership behaviors and coach-athlete relationships have been viewed as central to coaching effectiveness due to their associations with positive and negative psychosocial, emotional, motivational and performance outcomes.