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Coach and Athlete Relationship: Get an Athlete-Centered, Coach-Driven Approach for Success!

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee did a ton of work with some amazing people to build the Quality Coaching Framework.  It was written in 2017 and then updated in 2020 to advance the approach of coaches and coach developers to have better relationships and results when working with athletes in the modern era.  In the document, the USOPC and Dr. Wade Gilbert of Fresno State University lay out the concept of an athlete-centered, coach-driven approach to coaching to better build a more real and holistic relationship that meets athletes where they are at in modern world sports. 

The outcome of such a mental approach for coaches is what everyone wants, a better connection between the athlete and coach. Dr. Gilbert goes on to talk about the athlete-centered outcomes that come from such an approach and connection is one of the 4 C's that are mentioned. Connection, Competence, Confidence and Character all are athlete-centered outcomes that come from a focus on the overall well-being of wanting to set your athlete up for success in a manner that brings you both onto the same team.

So many people talk about different coaches they have had and what they like and do not like when they were going through the sport system.  When you think about why we all loved certain coaches, it is amazing to see how the 4 C’s of competence, confidence, connection and character come up in those stories of why.  Those memories of great coaches many times can connect back to when they were athlete-centered and driving our growth as athletes with enjoyment, satisfaction, motivation, and performance in mind.  So, for the coaches that want to work on an athlete-centered-coach-driven approach keep a few of these suggestions in mind from Dr. Gilbert and the USOPC team that built the Quality Coaching Framework. They say the following 7 things can help a coach be in the zone of athlete-centered and coach driven:

  • Jointly setting challenging, yet realistic, goals in line with the athlete’s age and ability;
  • Encouraging the athletes’ input and initiative; 
  • Provide a rationale for coaching decisions
  • Recognizing the athletes’ goal progress as well as performance achievements;
  • Provide supportive, positive, and constructive feedback;
  • Deliver coaching that meets each athlete's unique learning and development needs and
  • Account for life factors outside of sport that may affect goal attainment.

Doing all of these things can feel overwhelming to coaches, but if you focus on 2 or 3 of these in your daily coaching and season, you will be making big steps towards having your approach meet the needs of the athlete and keeping you both on the same team! As a coach, you want everyone to think We, not Me when it comes to development and growth, so these ideas should help you achieve an athlete-centered, coach-driven approach.

*Adapted from Quality Coaching Framework (2020), Illinois, Human Kinetics