Thursday, September 3, 2009

Player - Coach Relationship

I was originally going to make an assertion about the styles of coaching from an "american" point of view, as compared with a"european" (originating from the Soviet bloc) view, though I don't think I could really support that argument.

However, most tennis coaches, and illustrated with the authors of this book, share a methodology that may seem out of the ordinary in our culture.
My question has more to do with the differences, and more importantly, the rationale behind that contrasting philosophy with player/coach relationship.

Whereas, we in the West, traditionally see the player/coach relationship as more of an acceptable dictator heirarchy, where the players follow the coach to the "T" or they are replaced or worse. The relationship dynamic that is seen in "european" (we'll include Western Olympic coaches here) contexts (best illustrated with high caliber Olympic athletes), is one of shared mutual respect working toward the athletic performance of the athlete.

My question / curiosity is what can be gleaned from both to better serve our programs? Also, why is one model embraced moreso than the other?
It would stand to reason that with non-select (high school athletics) sports, discipline and control have to be valued over relationship, as you really have little to no control over the quality of athletic talent. Therefore, the domineering, controlling 'administrator' of the team is needed to bring order out of physical chaos. The coach is aided by the players to work as a group.

When specialization occurs, naturally peak performance on every contest is desired as there is a concerted effort on the athlete's part to get the best output. It is the athlete aided by the coach for the result of the individual. The relationship is more intimate and more trust-centered.

That being said and understood, can we find ways to embrace a more impassioned responsed from both coaches and players to gravitate towards the trust-centric "Olympic" model? What could it benefit us?

Additional readings

The Coach - Athlete Partnership

here is an interesting piece from 'access athletes' blog

on coaches controlling team cohesion

I was wondering about the dynamic of how WE (the west) perceives what a coach should be and what type of relationship he should have. The broad brush generalizations of "West" and "European" was just a matter of semantics. The "european" approach was taken mostly from Olympic training, which is primarily individual performance training.

This is essentially a two-part question.

1) Do we in the "west" perceive that a coach must be Gen. Patton / Bear Bryant and dictate everything just because that is what our cultural stimuli tells us? We do it because he did it, because the guy before him did it (that way).....How much of WHY we do it (methodology) is based on necessity, and how much is based on indoctrination?

This also begs the question of the teaching profession. As in 90% of America, to coach you need to be a teacher. I'm not quite sure that is the same litmus for European coaches (moreso the Olympic model).
Does being an educator, namely a member of the American Education System (and its mentality) persuade / influence our model of "coaching"? (you can control a population / force in the classroom that you could not do in any other real-world environment)

2) The acknowledgement upfront of the contrast between coaching team and individuals is noted. However, can coaches in team sports glean anything from what is so effective with individual coaching dynamics and apply it to the team/group milieu?

A large part of this component requires less micro-managing of the unit and more encouragment/persuasion/motivation of the body of athletes (letting them take ownership, with the coach simply providing direction)?

1 comment:

Brad Stoffers said...

Great post and very often overlooked or misunderstood. The relationship with athletes will end you or send you!

For more information about coaching and the coach-athlete relationship visit