From teacher to friend: The evolving nature of the coach-athlete relationship

Roberta Antonini Philippe *, Sam S. Sagar **, Sophie Huguet ***, Yvan Paquet **** and Sophia Jowett *****

(*) Institute of Movement Sciences and Sport Medicine, University of Geneva, Switzerland
(**) Leeds Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
(***) Université Henri Poincaré Nancy, France
(****) University of Reunion, DIMPS, E.A.4075, France
(*****) Loughborough University, United Kingdom


Antonini Philippe, R., S. Sagar, S., Huguet, S., Paquet, Y., Jowett, S. (2011). From teacher to friend: The evolving nature of the coach-athlete relationship. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 42(1), 1-23.


OBJECTIVES: The aim of the present study was to explore the nature and development of the coach-athlete relationship from the perspective of both an athlete and a coach. METHOD: Two coaches (1 female and 1 male; aged 42 and 48, respectively) and eight elite level swimmers (competing at international level; 4 females and 4 males; Mage18.6 years, SD = 3.1 years) from the Swiss National Swimming team were interviewed individually. Interviews ranged between 60 and 90 minutes and were audio-recorded. The athletes and their respective coaches had been working together for an average of 3.5 years. RESULTS: Data analysis revealed that the coach-athlete relationship gradually evolved over time, and that three specific dimensions operated in the development of this relationship: (1) developing bonds; (2) developing co-operation; and, (3) power relation. CONCLUSIONS: The coach-athlete relationship occurs naturally and evolves over time. This evolution in the relationship is beneficial to the athlete’s personal growth, mental strength, and athletic development. The study enhances knowledge and has theoretical and practical implications for the coach-athlete dyad.

Keywords: Athlete, Coach, Interpersonal Interaction, Power Relationship, Swimming