The coach-athlete relationship

Exploring its impact on coaching, influencing sport policy and raising standards

Professor Jowett’s ground-breaking research into the interpersonal dynamics between coaches and athletes provides gold-standard methods for understanding and measuring the quality of the coach-athlete relationship. These methods have been adopted in research and practice internationally.

She has been instrumental in raising awareness and changing attitudes around the reciprocity of the relationship and the importance of relational qualities including mutual trust, respect, appreciation, commitment, loyalty, co-operation and collaboration.

This research has placed the quality of the coach-athlete relationship at the centre of coaching and redressed the balance in athletes’ and coaches’ performance and wellbeing. This shift is reflected in changes in coaching practices worldwide.

Our impact

Influencing policy and raising standards

Informing coach education and training

  • CIMPSA cited our work in its Coaching in High Performance professional standards framework (2019). 
  • Our research has informed UK Coaching’s coach educational programmes and the production of training videos, infographics, articles, blogs, podcasts and webinars.
  • To date, 20,000 coaches and athletes have visited the Tandem website, and ≈2,000 have completed Tandem training. In April 2020, >250 participants registered to join a free online training programme.
  • Coach-Athlete Relationship Empowerment (CARE, funded by the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Studies Centre) is a free online educational programme for athletes and coaches which raises awareness of the significant role the coach-athlete relationship plays for both performance and wellbeing.

The coach-athlete relationship: What has it got to do with coaching?
Professor Jowett's Inaugural Lecture, December 2019

Listen here

The research

Professor Jowett’s exploration of the coach-athlete relationship began in 2000. Just 12 years later, she was placed second in the Journal of Coaching Education’s Top 10 Research Influencer Factor rankings.

Initially, her work established an understanding of good relationships, developing the Closeness, Commitment, Complementarity and Co-orientation (3+1Cs) framework. She also devised a set of Coach-Athlete Relationship Questionnaires (CART-Qs). These tools have been widely used, since 2005, to study the coach-athlete relationship.

She then explored the strategies coaches and athletes use to maintain and enhance their relationships. In partnership with Dr Daniel Rhind, she identified seven strategies, known as COMPASS. Her Coach-Athlete Relationship Maintenance Questionnaire (CARM-Q) explores the links between COMPASS and the 3+1Cs, and is used worldwide.

Her recent work has investigated interpersonal conflict; the interface between coach leadership and coach-athlete relationships; challenging interpersonal situations between coaches and athletes (including deselection, supported by the British Athletes Commission) as well as gender and coaching (funded by UK Sport).

Professor Jowett's work on effective coach-athlete relationships has supported and informed our coaching principles, our learning and development offer.

Diccon Edwards Head of Coach Development - UK Sport

Over 15,000 coaches and athletes have participated in our research

Research funders

  • British Academy
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • GB Sasakawa
  • Hellenic Olympic Committee
  • HSBC
  • International Olympic Committee (Olympic Centre Studies)
  • JF Costopoulos Foundation
  • Ministry of Culture and Sport
  • Nuffield Foundation
  • UK Coaching
  • UK Sport

Development partners

  • Sport England
  • UK Coaching
  • UK Sport


Tandem draws on Professor Jowett's extensive research. It has been widely used by coaches and athletes worldwide to achieve excellence together. The programme's profits support ongoing research and the education of a new generation of practitioners.

Meet the experts