Southern African Olympian perspectives of the coach-athlete relationship

Tshepang Tshube * and Stephanie J. Hanrahan **

(*) Department of Physical Education, Health and Recreation, University of Botswana, South Africa
(**) School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences and School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Australia


Tshube, T., J. Hanrahan, S. (2018). Southern African Olympian perspectives of the coach-athlete relationship. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 49(3), 224-239. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2018.49.224


The quality of athlete-coach relationships is important for athletes’ performance and development. In the current paper, we report a qualitative investigation of coach-athlete relationships among several Southern African Olympians and their coaches, thereby providing a perspective beyond current research predominantly done in the developed Western world. Ten coach-athlete dyads from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe participated in semi-structured interviews. In addition, athletes from Botswana and South Africa participated in separate focus groups. The analysis revealed that elements of 3Cs +1 framework were evident, while culture also plays a pivotal role in shaping coach-athlete relations. Beyond closeness, commitment, complementarity, and co-orientation, themes associated with parental roles and cultural influences were found. We conclude that the study of athlete-coach relationships may benefit from culturally specific and sensitive research that addresses the nuances that underline the complex interpersonal dynamics between athletes and coaches.

Keywords: Closeness, Commitment, Complementarity, Cultural influence, Parental role, Southern Africa