The Coach-Athlete Relationship

Here coach Diogo discussed very openly how a coaching relationship is a relationship based on trust and communication. All too often we base our opinion of coaching and coaches on what they know (and this is important) but don’t forget that you need to connect and build that relationship as well – when that happens, the performance magic happens!

Earlier this year on one of our training camps in Vilamoura, we have been asked what would be the top three things an athlete should be looking for to ensure that someone would be the best coach for them. I remember saying that I don’t have a “Top three” but I have an idea on what an athlete should look at a coach.


Choosing someone to coach you just because it’s someone with hundreds of degrees and books in their library doesn’t mean they will be the best person for you. We tend to believe that the best coach for you is the one that can make the best out of you even when the going gets tough.

The coach-athlete relationship must be a win-win relationship, almost like a marriage where you both learn with each other and you should trust each other…no matter what.

I’ve been lucky to meet some excellent coaches and I think I’ve been even more lucky to encounter those who aren’t as good; or at least, I wouldn’t be comfortable for having them coaching my athletes.

A coach that has a lot of knowledge is someone that can teach you a lot of theories and scientific methods but if the coach doesn’t have the human side to engage with you in the best way (for you), then all the science in the world won’t make you go any faster? People engage with people, not theories or methods.

I once heard a very famous coach, with several Olympic medals saying: “an athlete will stay with you not because of what you know, but because of who you are” and I couldn’t agree more. As coaches, we aren’t always right, we make mistakes, and sometimes things don’t go as we initially planned. The human body and the sport itself are not exact sciences and things don’t usually go the way we intended but as mentioned before, in a marriage not everything is a ‘bed of roses’ so you need to understand what went wrong and why; what are the steps to take to change the situation you find yourself in and what you can do to do better? What have we learned? Trusting and believing in your coach is half way to your success.

If at any point you are not sure about the coach’s plan, just talk to them, tell what worries you and share your feelings, you’ll see it will be so much better in the long run than keeping it to yourself and hope that by magic, your coach understands what’s in your mind. Inevitably, I have seen athletes move on to many different coaches with the same issue time and time again. regularly this comes down to the simple issue that the athlete is not being forthcoming with their feelings, their intentions or their frustrations. Communication is always at the heart of every relationship and coaching is no different.

Remember, this is a relationship, in order to receive you must give: you like to have feedback of what you’re doing right (and wrong)? As coaches, that is the basis of our job – and we like to hear more from you!