From a rower or coxswain’s standpoint I think a good relationship involves a LOT of listening and being able to take criticism and learn from it. There are other things, but those are the two most basic and important. From a coach’s standpoint, a good relationship with one’s athletes involves being able to joke around and have a good time but also be able to take the fun-person hat off and put the adult, coach hat on when necessary. We’re there to provide instruction, first and foremost, but you still need to develop that “bond” with the athletes that lets them know they’re able to come to you with any problem, whether it’s related to the sport or not.
This summer was the first opportunity I had to see things from both an athlete’s point of view and a coach’s point of view because for the first time since I started playing sports, I was both at the same time. When I first started coxing my master’s 8+, I didn’t get along well with the coach because he treated me like a novice, not as someone who has ten years of experience. If you’re having issues with a coach or don’t understand why they’re doing something, talk to them. Open the lines of communication yourself. Be mature about it and admit fault if necessary. Listen to their side and try and understand where they’re coming from and why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s always better to have that conversation sooner rather than later. If you’re really upset about something and don’t feel like you can have a conversation right at that time, send them a brief email or grab them after practice and say “Hey, we need to talk but I don’t feel that now is the right time. Can we maybe sit down (in 2-3 days)?” That’ll give you time to cool down and rationalize your thoughts.
If you’re an athlete and you get a new coach, don’t treat them like shit just because they’re new. Talk to them and get to know them, just like you would anyone else. It’s easier to do this with someone in their 20s vs. someone in their 40s, but you can make the effort regardless. If they’re around my age, they’re in a new job with new people and trust me, they’re nervous about proving themselves as a knowledgeable and worthy coach. Don’t assume that because they do something different than you’re used to that they’re wrong. This is one of the BIGGEST lessons I’ve learned throughout high school and college. It might not make sense to you now, but later on it will. If they point out something you do that someone hasn’t told you before, they’re not judging you, they don’t hate you, and they don’t think you’re a terrible athlete. It’s GOOD that they’re noticing new things because … how else are you going to get better? Take what they say and use it to help you improve. If you’re confused, talk to them about it and have them explain it more thoroughly. Don’t write them off or think that because you’ve been on the team longer than them, you know more. I’ve been coxing since I was a freshman in high school and I swear I learn something new every time I go out.
Also, don’t assume that your coach doesn’t like you. If you’re guarded or quiet and don’t really make any attempts to interact or communicate, they might assume that YOU don’t like THEM and we all know what happens when people assume things.
Related: My coach isn’t very chatty with us. Obviously my teammates and I still have a pretty solid relationship with her due to the endless hours we spend at practice together but sometimes I feel like she doesn’t like me. I never want to be that annoying kid so I’m generally pretty quiet and very obedient (that’s kinda just my personality anyways). Any suggestions on building a relationship with my coach without being a pest? (She’s about your age if that makes a diff.)
I think being able to joke around is important. I’m a fairly laid back person with a solid sense of humor and that usually serves me pretty well. Since I started coaching I’ve only coached men’s teams, with the exception of the girls I coached in skills camps over the summer. We all know the personalities and senses of humor that 14-20 year old guys have and sometimes you just have to know when to draw the line. If you just laugh it off and say “OK guys, go do something not annoying” they’ll drop it and move on. I think that being uptight and unwilling to share things gives off the wrong impression … uptight, unapproachable, and stiff doesn’t really make me want to listen to you when you’re coaching me.
Basically, treat each other as you would want to be treated. Be nice, supportive, motivating, communicable, and open to suggestions/criticism. Everything else will work itself out.