Invariant Factors:

When assessing the coach-athlete relationship, there are invariable factors that can influence the quality of the relationship such as the age of the athlete, the sex of the coach and athlete, the competitive level, the longevity, the cultural environment, typical and atypical relationships, and sport type. These are things that a coach must keep in mind.

Age of the Athlete:
When coaching youth sport, coaches must cope with parents. Problems can arise when the coach and parent have different perspectives on what is best for the team and what is best for the athlete.
Tactics to dealing with parents:
  • Educate the parents- Keep the parents informed of your rules.
  • Stay calm- If an irate parent approaches you after a game, don't get defensive.PE-271-0003.jpg
  • Cool off- Allow time to pass after an incident involving a parent before you sit down to talk, so that both of you are more levelheaded.
  • Bring your assistant- If you need to discuss a matter with a parent, bring your assistant coach along to help mediate.
  • Listen- Carefully listen to the parent's concerns and don't interrupt before you begin to respond.

The Sex of the Coach and Athlete:
Female coach-female athlete relationships tend to be more emotionally invested whereas male coach-male athlete relationships tend to be more informational to maximize performance (Unger and Crawford, 1992). The opposite sex coach-athlete relationship dynamic leads to questions of compatibility due to different male and female motivators.
  • Female Athletes: Include reasoning in your instruction and keep their feelings in mind when giving feedback. They want to feel that you are invested in them as a person.
  • Male Athletes: Keep them informed on how to improve their game without reasoning
Competitive Level:
The competitive level of the athlete can influence the quality of the coach-athlete relationship where elite athletes must also rely on their coaches for support during competition, injury, or burnout.
  • Novice Athlete: Teach them the vocabulary of the sport. Use elementary words and keep instruction simple. Give them one thing to improve on
  • Elite Athletes: Maintain yourself as a support system to the athlete.
The quality of the coach-athlete relationship and the level of commitment will also strengthen the longer the coach and the athlete work together.
  • The longer you work with the athlete, the relationship built will be stronger
Cultural Environment:
Cultural concerns including race, ethnicity, and location also affect the coach-athlete dynamic. Athletes from different geographical regions may react differently to feedback.
  • Refrain from using derogatory language even when joking with your athletes
  • Be sensitive to and aware of racial, ethnical, and religious differences between your athletes.


Typical and Atypical Relationships:
When a coach and athlete are related only by their sporting relationship they have a typical relationship. Atypical relationships exist when the coach and athlete form other associations than the sporting relationship such as family (Parent-Child), romantic (Husband-Wife), educational (Teacher- Student), and correspondence (Mail, E-mail, Phone) relationships (Taylor, 2005).
Tactics for Atypical Relationships:
  • Don't play favorites and treat all players with the same amount of respect.
Sport Type:
Individual sports allow the coach to react with the athletes differently than team sports. These particular factors are unchangeable when associated with the coach-athlete relationship, but there are other aspects of the coach-athlete relationship that can be altered to improve the quality. Sports can be qualified as an individual sport or a team sport relying on the dependency of coordination among athletes.
  • Individual sports consists primarily of independency
  • Team sports demonstrate a higher level of connectivity between teammates (Chelladurai and Saleh, 1978).

Variant Factors:

Coaches can work in conjunction with athletes to improve the relationship in areas such as compatibility, coaching behaviors, intimacy, personality conflicts, power struggles, athlete’s self esteem, and interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts.

Compatibility between a coach and athlete is key to a successful relationship and is important in both individual and team sports. Compatibility can be disrupted when goals, values, beliefs, and desires differ. Compatibility tends to be easier to maintain in individual sports because the coach and athlete spend more time one-on-one and can progress the relationship.
  • Talk with your athletes regularly and explain to them exactly what you expect of them.
  • At the beginning of the season, make a team goal list and keep it out during regular practices to remind the athletes of team goals.
  • Make a list of ways that your team goals can be accomplished.
Coaching behaviors:
Coaching behaviors such as mental preparations, technical skills, goal setting, physical training, competition strategies, personal rapport, negative personal rapport, etc. act as a moderator in athlete satisfaction and ultimately signify the quality of the coach-athlete relationship.
  • Due to the complexity of team sport competition and necessity of greater coach control, these athletes prefer more positive coaching behaviors than negative coaching behaviors.
  • With individual sport athletes, positive coaching behaviors are not necessarily related to higher athlete satisfaction (Baker, 2003).

Intimacy between a coach and athlete differ in the team sport and individual sport. Because individual sports allow more one-on-one coach-athlete interactions, the dyad can form a deeper and more intimate relationship. In team sports, the coach has less opportunity to develop intimate relationships due to the complexity of team-cohesion where the coach must develop a relationship with the team as a whole (Taylor, 2005).
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings with athletes.
  • Organize team dinners or other outings so that the team can bond with each other as well as their coach.
Personality Conflicts and Power Struggles:
Individual sport athletes tend to struggle with personality conflicts and power competence more than in team sports. This could be because individual sport athletes must compete against themselves and teammates to prove their spot on the team for competition (Taylor, 2005). Team-cohesion is also stronger in team sports than individual sports. The stronger the team-cohesion, the stronger the relationship will be between the coach and athlete.
  • Outline the duties of each player.
  • Let the athletes know that you and your assistants are in charge.
  • Don't let them overpower your authority.
  • Implement a punishment plan (such as cleaning equipment after practice) for those who cannot follow by the rules.
A coach must influence self-esteem in the athlete by complementation in a way that will respond to the athlete.This is developed better communication and compatibility.
  • Give the athletes positive feedback after completing a hard task.
  • Let the athletes know that you care about them either by telling them or awarding them with a small merit.


Lastly, interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts can disrupt the coach-athlete relationship. Interpersonal conflict is disagreements between two individuals. Specifically, interpersonal conflicts arise when the coach and athlete are incompatible and have different goals, desires, or preferred styles. Intrapersonal conflicts arise when an individual feels at a loss within themselves. Particularly, when the athlete has problems with self-esteem, personality conflicts, and power struggles.
  • Listen to both sides of the argument
  • Talk to outside parties about suggestions to deal with your particular situation. A third-party will not benefit from the outcome, so they can act as an objective eye.
  • If an athlete is dealing with an intrapersonal conflict, it might be have them talk with a professional about their struggles.