Closeness, co-orientation and complementarity in coach-athlete relationships: what male swimmers say about their male coaches

Antonini Philippe, Roberta; Seiler, Roland (2006). Closeness, co-orientation and complementarity in coach-athlete relationships: what male swimmers say about their male coaches Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 7(2), pp. 159-171. Elsevier 10.1016/j.psychsport.2005.08.004

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Objectives: The aim of this study was to study the quality of the coach–athlete relationship. Utilising the three interpersonal constructs of closeness, co-orientation, and complementarity [Jowett, S. (2003). When the ‘honeymoon’ is over: a case study of a coach–athlete dyad in crisis. The Sport Psychologist, 17, 444–460; Jowett, S. & Meek, G. A. (2000). The coach–athlete relationship in married couples: an exploratory content analysis. The Sport Psychologist, 14, 157–175] as a framework to guide our exploration, athletes' perceptions of the relationship quality with their coaches were explored. Method: Participants were five male swimmers from the Swiss national swimming team. All five athletes held international titles and were preparing for the 2004 Olympic Games. A semi-structured interview schedule was employed to obtain qualitative data. The responses of the athletes were content analysed. Results: The results show that the coach–athlete relationship plays an important role for the swimmers investigated. The relationship comprised essential coach–athlete requirements and social relationship (closeness), communication and setting of objectives/goals (co-orientation), as well as acceptance and respect of roles (complementarity). It was revealed that swimmers placed great importance in maintaining good relations with their coach. Conclusion: The content analysis has highlighted the nature of the coach–athlete relationship in an individual sport (swimming) in the context of the three interpersonal constructs of closeness, co-orientation and complementarity. The type of relationship formed as reported from the male athletes was personal and caring, and played a central role in improving performance. Theoretical considerations and difficulties in classifying some 10% of the responses lead to the conclusion that, from a conceptual point of view, the constructs have to be re-examined.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


Swiss Federal Institute of Sports Magglingen SFISM > EHSM - Leistungssport > Sportpsychologie


Antonini Philippe, Roberta and
Seiler, Roland


1469-0292 (Print) 1878-5476 (Online)






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Date Deposited:

03 Mar 2021 11:35

Last Modified:

22 Sep 2021 02:17

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Coach–athlete relationship Closeness Co-orientation Complementarity Swimming




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