Positive coaching and Olympic success : case studies of track and field Olympic medalist coach-athlete relationships
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Competing at the Olympic Games is different than any other performance setting, and presents many challenges to the athlete and coach. The purpose of this study was to investigate the coach-athlete relationship with Olympic medal winning track and field athletes and their coaches. This qualitative study utilized case study design consisting of multiple interviews with the participants. The participants consisted of three Olympic medalist athletes and their coaches. The athletes each had won a medal in track and field at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The in-depth interviews ranged from 60-90 minutes and consisted of open-ended questions exploring the coach-athlete relationship. Cross-case analysis identified the following three general themes: autonomy supportive environment, caring relationship, and mental strength. These three aspects of the coach-athlete relationship emerged as important in the process of developing an Olympic medal winner. Each coach and athlete had developed an unique relationship that worked for each case in helping the athlete to be successful at the Olympic Games. While each case presents an unique relationship, the core methods and theories behind the approach of the coaches and athletes are similar. Consideration of these findings may provide meaningful opportunities for coaches and athletes in the future to learn and benefit from the experiences of these highly successful Olympic medal winning athletes and their coaches. The findings will help contribute to the body of research on Olympic coach-athlete relationships, which may help improve athlete and coaching education programs.