The Athlete, Coach relationship.

As a Judo athlete, the relationship you have with your coach, or coaches is very important. In this article we shall explore this relationship, the importance it has on athletic development and performance along with some ideas to explore to develop the relationship you have with your coach.

Researchers have identified that the relationship between athlete and coach is consider very important. Jowett  and Cockerill (2003) for example interviewed a number of Olympic medalists and identified “Closeness, Co-orientation, and Complementarity” as being important aspects in the relationships with coaches.

When we discuss a coach/player relationship, we are looking for relationships that foster improved performance. And the 3Cs (“Closeness, Co-orientation, and Complementarity”) can be used to explore this area with your own coach/player relationship.

A positive relationship with your coach is needed for you to progress and perform. Both you and your coach need to have to have high levels of understanding, honesty, support, liking, acceptance, responsiveness, friendliness, cooperation, caring and respect for one another to have an effective relationship (Jowett & Cockerill, 2003; Jowett & Meek, 2000).

Developing these areas will take many many interactions before, during and after training and competitions.


An athlete and a coach should feel close to one another, there should be feelings of trust and respect for one another and of course just plain liking the other person. As a coach, you may consider being more open with your coach, trusting them with some small details of your emotional states might be a start. Consider it a “test of the waters”, if they react in a way that you expect/want and earns your trust, then share more. This process of sharing items and trusting your coach with the information can lead to them feeling closer to you and you to them. Respect will grow from their respecting your privacy and your taking the risk of sharing with them.


You and your coach should be “on the same page”. They need to understand you and be able to think like you. And you them. Conversations may be the easiest way to explore how you and your coach(s) are oriented. If you are aiming for Olympic glory and your coach is looking to retire next year, then you have a problem. If they think you are a Olympic hopeful and you see yourself as a club level player you have an issue also.

By having open discussion with your coach you can establish a shared perspective on where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Perhaps you can ask your coach this week to sit down (away from training) to have a chat about your career plans.


An important factor in your relationship is the sense that your coach adds positively to your efforts. It is important that you both feel that you are better together than apart. For example, typically a athlete will appreciate a coaches expert knowledge and experience; whilst the coach will appreciate your ability to learn and to follow what they show you.

You may find your coach is a emotional support, this is fine. However, it only works if both of you understand what the other needs and how they can assist. If your coach sees themselves solely as your technical advisor but you are seeking a mentor the level of complementarity will not be right.

Perhaps, whilst talking about your goals this week (as above for co-orientation) you can explore where your coach feels they are of most benefit and where you feel you need the assistance. There may be areas where your coach does not understand what you want and may have been intentionally not covering that area as they felt it was not something they felt you wanted them involved in.


Relationships in sport can often be the difference between success and failure. Tyson was a huge success with  Cus D’Amato as his coach/trainer. But, without him Mike Tyson just was not the same athlete. The French football (soccer) team infamously revolted against their coach Domenech, the negative environment that caused that is commonly attributed with causing the failure of that team in the world cup.

Within our sport of Judo, I am sure we can all give examples of good healthy coach player relationships and examples of negative ones. You as the athlete, should consider that relationship as part of your preparation for competition. Just like your Judo throws, you must develop the relationships you have to make them as effective as you can. Similarly it is, ultimately, your responsibility to create the relationships you need to win.

You have to make hard decisions sometimes about the state of the relationships and if they can be developed into something productive. Alternatively, you may need to face the tough situation of being in a relationship that is not going to be able to be productive, in which case you may need to end the relationship.

You need to choose the relationships that will help you grow as an athlete and perform at the highest levels you can achieve. You need to develop your relationships like you would your strength and conditioning and Judo waza.

I would be very interested in your experiences and reactions to this article. Please do drop me an email ( ) or leave a message in the comments.


Comments (3)

SamSeptember 19th, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I believe having a great relationship with your coach does give you the edge in our sport judo. The best motivation for me during my stay as a competitive university athlete is my COACH and teammates.

Ottavio RazzinoJune 19th, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Hi I am 14 years old and I practise judo since I was five. I am now part of the England
Judo Programme and part of the GB England Talented Performers since Oct 2012.
Judo is my life and I always work hard to improve but at the moment I feel not enough
supported by my coach ,not present at many competitions I do and in need of a specific
attention and feed back on my performances at this, I believe, particular stage.
Your article has been useful to confirm that I am not asking anything special

lanceWJune 24th, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Hi Ottavio,
I am very glad the article seems useful to you.
I hope since you wrote your comment you have looked at your own situation and found a path forward.
If you are on the England Programme talking to Matt Divall is a great idea.
Please stay in touch and let me know how your training and competing goes.

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