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Dyadic coping can enhance the coach athlete relationship


The relationship between a coach and an athlete benefits from a two-way support system, according to research from Leeds Beckett University.

Coach and athlete

The traditional relationship is a coach supporting one or more athletes by guiding them, being there to support them after a bad performance, and cheering them onto a win. This new research, however, has shown that it’s very much a joint process between athletes and coaches and that both parties can offer support to each other.

Five coaches and their five athletes were studied by Helen Staff, a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the Carnegie School of Sport, Dr Faye Didymus and Professor Susan Backhouse. All of the participants competed in individual rather than team sports because it is believed that athletes in individual sports have closer and more committed relationships with their coach.

Five key themes were constructed from the findings – the essence of dyadic (relating to or based on two) coping, lock and key fit, friendship and trust, communication of the stressor and protection and support.

Explaining the key findings of their study, the research team said: “The interviewees in our study suggested that a shared approach to coping extended their own coping resources. Indeed, athletes reported that they sought support from their coach when they had exceeded their own resources or when their individual coping resources were insufficient.

“The findings of the study are exciting because they show that both athletes’ and coaches’ coping resources may be extended by dyadic coping and that shared coping is mutually beneficial for both parties and that support can be bidirectional between coaches and athletes. Friendship and trust can also promote and shape the share coping experiences between athletes and coaches.”

It’s hoped that these research findings will be useful for national governing bodies and practitioners, because they bring to the fore the existence of dyadic coping in coach-athlete relationships, suggesting that it may be useful to incorporate a focus on dyadic coping in coach education programs. 

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