Improving the Coach-athlete Relationship: How Does this Help with Mental Barriers?
No one has ever drowned in sweat.
-Lou Holtz, Football Coach
In this article, we will address a crucial topic in every student-athlete’s career: the coaching relationship. As you already know, behind every successful athlete there is a coach or a mentor that impacted their mindset, motivation, and personal growth. Very few people in the world are able to get very far in their life by themselves: there usually is a strong support system that allows them to overcome their mental barriers in sports. Considering this, the current article will examine potential ways in which your student-athlete can improve their mental barriers through an effective and positive relationship with their coach.
A coaching relationship should not exclusively focus on winning a game or beating an adversary. Instead, it should make the athlete’s personal development its primary purpose. A major part of personal development is learning to trust oneself and having confidence in one’s skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, many young athletes struggle with that. Competitive environments, exposure to social media, and high standards from family and society make student-athletes vulnerable to low self-esteem. They can remain in a vicious cycle where they doubt themselves and avoid taking action, which, on the long term, impairs one’s growth and personal development. The result? More psychological barriers in sports.
A positive coaching relationship should improve a student-athlete self-esteem, not deter it. The athlete can look up to their coach as a role model who embodies confidence and a “can do” attitude and who can teach them how to break through their mental barriers. A confident coach will empower their student to work with their own skills and create a context for them to bring their natural talent to the surface.
Resilience during stressful times
Besides being a source of support, the coach can model a healthy attitude to stress by seeking solutions and identifying their own coping mechanisms. In this respect, the coaching relationship can be a tool against barries to mental health conditions like anxiety. If the student-athlete has a positive relationship with the coach and looks up to them, their relationship can serve as a tool against their mental barriers. The coach can, solely through their own presence around the athlete, enhance their self-confidence and promote a framework for success.
The coach-athlete relationship is the foundation of the athlete’s support system. It can represent the first thing the athlete can go to when they need support and guidance.
How to improve the coach-athlete relationship
- Show commitment. If you’re a coach, you can do that by always showing a genuine interest in the athlete’s progress. Don’t just approach them as yet another student-athlete you have to coach. Show them that you want them to succeed as much as they do. Listen to their feedback and needs and do your best to integrate those in your coaching practice. As a student-athlete, you can show commitment to improving the coach-athlete relationship by attending all training sessions, being present during them, and giving your best to follow the coach’s instructions. Be prepared to give up your time to your coach by staying longer on the sport field to practice and scheduling extra session when you need them.
- Develop closeness. Even if the coach-athlete relationship is a professional one, it doesn’t mean that the people involved shouldn’t make an effort to improve it. Both the athlete and the coach should take time to provide praise, encouragement, support, and constructive feedback to each other during training, competition, and non-sport-related contexts. They can also engage in small talk, remember each others’ birthdays, and show interest in activities that take place outside of sports. Teambuilding and social activities are also good opportunities for the coach and athlete to trust each other more — these can even involve other people such as teammates, assistant coaches parents, etc.
Athletic progress lies in an effective coach-team relationship
Therefore, if you‘re looking for tips on how to push through mental barriers such as low self-confidence, stress, or nerves, have a look at the quality of the relationship with your athlete. There is a possibility that some of the athlete’s internal struggles will improve if they find enough safety, trust, and openness in their relationship with their coach.