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The Player - Coach Relationship

"It's a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test." - Lou Holtz

In soccer there can be many add-on relationships. The player-parent, player-teacher, player-spouse, player-fan. All can all have an impact on a players performance. The player-coach base should be recognised as being especially crucial.

A players and their coach must develop a relationship based in terms of appreciation, commitment, cooperation, dependence, trust and respect for each other. Overall, the player-coach relationship is a dynamic and sometimes complex process, nevertheless it provides the means by which coaches and players needs are expressed and fulfilled.

Historically, coaching has been preoccupied with enhancing players physical, technical and tactical skills. The coach is a major force in promoting the development of a player physically and even more so these days, psychological, as positive mentoring and support go to create a near perfect working relationship. Positive player growth will develop through empathy, honesty, support and acceptance.

Soccer coaching implies achievement. The performance of both coach and player is shown as being either successful or not. A coach should be able to listen as well as talk. Good communication promotes the development of knowledge and understanding. A successful and effective coach - player relationship will invariably have positive outcomes for the player in terms of psychological health and well-being along with performance.

When giving instructions, not only should the coach make those instructions crystal clear, it should be explained to the players why something is being done so they have a clearer understanding and feel part of the plan.

In contrast, various elements can lead to conflict. Put-downs, critical, sarcastic comments undermine a players confidence. An ineffective or dysfunctional relationship will be marked by deceit, lack of interest, lack of commitment, remoteness, even antagonism and abuse. Ethical and professional issues that are associated with codes of conduct to protect players and coaches run a risk of being breached. Misunderstandings may develop if the coach fails to accurately understand the players intentions or emotions.

A perfect working relationship involves an ability or even desire to understand the other persons meaning and feelings with a strong, improving mutual liking, trust and respect. Emphasis is placed on how behaviours are perceived by the player and coach and their impact on outcomes such as satisfaction, self-esteem besides game performance.

The task of a coach in developing effective relationships that the players can use for growth and development is a challenging one because it is a measure of the growth they have achieved in themselves. This implies a responsibility on the part of coaches in that they must continually strive to develop their own potential, as this will be reflected in the maturity and growth of both coach and player.