This month saw the latest British Canoeing Coaching and Leadership Conference. The conference always attracts some of the leading practitioners from the worlds of academe and the sport and the 2019 programme was no exception.
One of this year’s keynote speakers was Professor Sofia Jowett from Loughborough University who presented on the importance of the coach-athlete relationship and how we can create a positive one. Sofia started with the question of whether we need to like the paddlers we coach with the perhaps self-evident response that we do. Sofia then however went on to explore how the quality of that relationship impacts on the success of our coaching inputs and how we can build those quality relationships.
Sofia’s work in this area has led her to develop the concept of the fours ‘C’s – Closeness, Commitment, Complimentarity and Co-orientation. Through developing an open, honest and respectful relationship, making consistent and reliable inputs over time, being responsive and receptive, and having common goals and values we can optimise the success of our coaching.
As coaches we should be aiming to be masters of our craft, inspiring our paddlers to have confidence in our abilities, to have faith in our intentions and to know we have their best interests at heart, and to demonstrate our integrity, understanding not only our learners’ strengths and weakness, goals and ambitions but recognising their values also. Sofia shared a telling quote from basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski: “In my relationships, I want you to believe me when I tell you that you are great and I want you to believe me when I tell you that you are not working hard enough.”
A key theme of the presentation was the recognition that relationship building is a two-way process. Our paddlers too have a responsibility to reflect all of the above back to us in order to achieve and even exceed their ambitions. As Sofia concluded, good quality coach-athlete relationships enable us to set our paddlers in an amazing journey and inspire them to be more than they ever thought possible.