The coaching relationship changes over the phases of development, and in fact, a coach in the early years, while less of a taskmaster or skill builder, should foster a sense of fun and experiences of success. As the athlete develops, the focus should change to the acquisition of sport-specific skills and later to individual support and feedback.
Athletes have been consistent in identifying their relationship with their coach as a fundamental factor in long-term success. That relationship must be supportive and involve trust. It must also involve encouragement and assistance in focusing on positive. As a consequence, the experience of defeat while disappointing will not produce disillusionment, disgust, or angry tirades. Rather the well-founded coach and athlete will analyze the experience and use this as a stepping-stone for future progress.
A coach’s reaction to unexpected performances may well define the nature and complexion of the future athlete - coach interactions. Those characterized by negativity are less likely to either be associated with athlete success or last over the long run.
I feel a successful coach is one who concentrates on all aspect of performance. These include physical skills and conditioning, as well as mental and psychological strategies. Different athletes need different skills and strategies. I believe many coaches are not adept at assessing the needs of their individual athletes and as a result, are unable to provide what will most benefit the athlete. The coach with the "cookie-cutter" approach will fail to connect and nurture many of the competitors they hope to assist.
Successful athletes, describing their coaching relationships stress that mutual trust and respect is necessary and that it must involve concern for the athlete not just in terms of their sport, but also as people.
I have high expectations of athletes, both in terms of day-to-day work ethic and practicing skills, but in terms of overall performance and long-term development. The assurance that they are in it "for the long run" allows coach and competitor to place less emphasis on mistakes made and more on overcoming them. As a coach I must be able to read the athlete and provide what is will be most helpful, whether that be in terms of the physical aspects of performance or psychological techniques and support.