Coach – Players relationship: How to contribute for the players development and commitment

Author: Gonçalo Moura

Master’s Degree in Sports Coaching at Faculty of Human Kinetics and UEFA B Coach


The training process success and efficiency depends in coach, players and their relationships. Some strategies can be performed to promote this relationship and build a positive environment to achieve the season goals.


On the daily basis, the coach has a lot and regular interactions. Since the moment he arrives to the club facilities until the moment he leaves, depending on the competitive context, the fastest or longest meetings can range from greeting club employees and colleagues, deal with players families until the need to prepare the team-building budget with the club board.

Of all the relationships that occur in the sports environment, the coach-players relationship is possibly the most important [1]. On a professional team daily basis, it is crucial to building a conducive environment for the development of relationships and behaviours focus on the same goals. Through good relationships, coaches and players invest their time, effort and energy to achieve goals and priorities set by both. The coach benefits when the quality of the relationship is good because there are active ingredients (as respect, trust, commitment and willingness to collaborate) that are positive and influential [2].

Figure 1. Ingredients of Effective and Successful Coaching

The 3+1Cs model used in coach-athlete dyad management for individual sports that conceptualize emotions, thoughts and behaviours [2] can help us understand how we should deal with each player individually: closeness, commitment, complementarity and co orientation.

Figure 2. Hierarchy of data categories related to closeness

Figure 3. Hierarchy of data categories related to complementarity

Figure 4. Hierarchy of data categories related to coorientation

In a handball study [3], the coach-player dyad reveals itself in a unit in a group context, enhancing the reach of each player maximum potential. This study reveals that the relational coach-player aspect emerges, fundamentally, through open and honest communication that enhances affective bonds, feelings of trust and mutual interpersonal appreciation.

Other studies refer respect and effective communication between coaches and players as the “road to success” [1]. The coach motivates and sets the right learning conditions becoming one of the most influential agents to the player’s outcome. The coach must create a controlled environment, avoiding the organizational and results pressure, reducing stressful experiences and increasing players adaptive behaviours [4].

The coach must be prepared and developed a broader profile, anticipating challenges that go beyond the technical-tactical dimension of the game, presenting skills of instruction, leadership, communication, management and self-regulation to deal with different situations [5]. Understanding players emotional responses at different competition situations, their personality and dreams can help to define emotional regulation strategies [1].

Regardless of the situation or message the coach wants to convey, he should avoid behaviours that lead to injustice feelings such as treating players differently. Fairness perception and satisfying their needs allows players to access relevant information which increases their identification with the team, improves the quality of their decision making and interpersonal relationships [6]. Coach-player interaction is key to correct mistakes, prepare the next competition and assists players in psychological and emotional regulation [1]. Receive more informative feedback than expected can have a positive impact on players once they feel that the coach is investing their time observing their technical and tactical skills [7].

Coaching implies game and training methodological actions but also a better understanding about the attitudes and behaviours of every people associated with the process. These allow to shape certain actions such as feedback (questioning, silence, praise), posture and behaviours which have a positive impact on players learning.

Regarding all this complexity, many coaches refer their assistant coaches importance to help and cope with stress and isolation of the sports environment [1], considering the tasks and responsibilities division crucial. The skills and competence of assistant coaches are becoming increasingly important, freeing the head coach from certain tasks to focus on environment management and relationship with the players.

Pratical applications

The relationship starts from the moment the player is chosen to be part of the team. It is very important to know the person, identify their personality, motivations, dreams, goals and expectations for the season. This process can be done at various times of the season through meetings, with the pre-competitive period (pre-season) being one of the most important as it is when relationships are built and the group formed. Individual interactions prevent communication difficulties due to the presence of other people and can increase the quality of the sharing moment. Throughout the season the meetings should serve to listen the player, adjust their expectations (according to individual and collective evolution) and demonstrate availability to help in all possible ways – acting as emotional and psychological regulator.

Individual tactical meetings to analyze certain game/training behaviors can also be used by coaches to understand the players mood and collective goals commitment.

Other group activities (cross fit, military day, paintball) which push players to the physical limits and provide them fun are important to bring them together to overcome challenges, foster group spirit and coach-player relationships.

In addition, the coaches can take advantage of moments together as stages, trips and group meals to improve the relationships quality and group atmosphere.

The coach can and should consider these moments for the team planification, using the other technical staff members to also analyze the team environment and promote the ideal group spirit.

Interactions exist every day so it is up to the coaches to take advantage of every moment to build a healthy relationship with each players which allows them to be emotionally predisposed and committed to the group and defined goals.

Bibliographic references

[1] – Da Silva, J., Vieira, L. & Gomes, A. (2016). O contributo do treinador profissional para a regulação psicológica e emocional do futebolista. Journal of Physical Education, 27, 2448-2455. doi: 10.4025/jphyseduc.v27i1.2703

[5] – Hanin, Y. (2011). The value of emotional intelligence for high-performance coaching: a commentary. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 6(3), 329-332. doi: 10.1260/1747- 9541.6.3.329.

[2] – Jowett, S. (2017). Coach effectiveness: The coach?athlete relationship at its heart. Current Opinion in Psychology, 16, 154?158.

[4] – Kristiansen E, Murphy D, Roberts G. Organizational stress and coping in U.S. professional soccer. J Appl Sport Psychol 2012;24(2):207-223. Doi: 10.1080/10413200.2011.614319.

[3] – Silva, A., & Teques, P. (2018). Díade treinador?atleta do andebol feminino: diferenças entre elite e sub?elite. Boletim SPEF

[7] – Stein J, Bloom G, Sabiston C. Influence of perceived and preferred coach feedback on youth athlete ?s perceptions of team motivational climate. Psychol Sport Exerc 2012;13(4):484-490. Doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2012.02.004

[6] – Tyler, T., & Blader, S. (2003). The group engagement model: procedural justice, social identity, and cooperative behaviour. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7(4), 349- 361. doi: 10.1207/s15327957pspr0704_07.

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