Trainer / Fighter Relationship

Trainer / Fighter Relationship

A solid trainer/athlete relationship

Written by: Yolanda Schmidt

Apart from your family, as an athlete, your trainer or coach becomes a pivotal part of your life. Perhaps the next closest person to you. Similar in the way an infant becomes attached to a parent, your trainer is your “primary caregiver”within your sporting career, and a good athlete/trainer relationship provides safety, security and emotional support, alongside the tools to better your skills.
When an athlete feels safe and secure, which increases as trust levels increase, they are more likely to push boundaries and take risks to improve.


To build this solid relationship between an athlete and their trainer/coach, appreciation, mutual trust, respect and communication is required”


Whether you are male or female, the importance of a solid relationship, between an athlete and their trainer, is pivotal. Studies conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association have revealed that the level of trust between an athlete and trainer can directly impact your performance, as an individual and as a team. The most contributing factor, revealed in a study of The Canadian Olympic team and their ability to medal, was a coach-athlete relationship.



A trainer takes time away from their family to guide, prepare, mentor and corner you during fight camp, weigh ins and the fight itself. At times they are taken away from their family completely as you travel, interstate or internationally, for competition. Yes, it might be part of their job description, and what they have signed up for, nonetheless, it is time invested in you. You trust in them! The most common response from trainers has been “I feel that my job is very rewarding, but that’s not to say it comes without challenges”. It is a two way street and when appreciation is given from both parties, all challenges are worth the effort.


Your trainer or coach is exposed to your most vulnerable times, when you are depleted and reaching for the last of your energy, they see almost every drop of sweat, second of training and every competition. They take your tantrums and deal with motivating you accordingly. They are there every step of the way. As a result, many athletes attribute their success and/or failures to their trainers.


Your trainer decides when to push you, when to lay off and what method to utilise so as to get the best out of you. If you are reading this and you can’t agree then you have the wrong trainer/coach. It is most certainly not a one-size-fits-all, find your fit. The dynamics between athletes and trainers will differ from person to person.


Do you obey your trainer or trust them?


It is important that an athlete feels content with putting their career, whether it is as an amateur or a professional, in the hands of their trainer.

Trust that he or she places your wellbeing at the top of their priority list within your sporting career. Trust that they would never allow you to step into the ring if they did not believe you were capable of the challenge, and trust that there is method to their madness, even if you can’t see it just yet.


You need to trust that your trainer or coach is taking the best approach, suited to you as an individual, to further develop you and your career.


Similarly, your coach/trainer is required to place all trust in you, that you will be doing what should be done, and at the right intensity, when they are not around. A good coach leads you but doesn’t hold your hand. If you can give 110% when your trainer is not around then you can give 150% when he or she is. This leads to achieving goals together.


It’s about how hard you work when no one is watching

Your coach/ trainer assists to set and achieve goals, but without trust there is a high chance of lost motivation, and falling short of reaching goals or potential. Trainer-athlete trust affects how much progress you, as an individual athlete, may or may not make in your career.


Lastly, in regards to trust, it’s important to learn to trust yourself as well!


Respect is imperative! Respect the decisions made by your trainer, keeping in mind that their decisions are to benefit you, not themselves. It is most important that you show your trainer/ coach respect. They are not superior but they do see the bigger picture, things you are unable to see, and at times things that are otherwise clouded by our emotions, fatigue or predetermined ideals.


As I would never talk back to my parents, so is the case with my trainers and coaches. Again, if you have the right coach, their intentions are simply to further develop your skill and/or career.  So when you are asked to do something, it is for your own good, and you just do it.

The bond you share with your trainers is unexplainable, success is a byproduct of a trustful relationship”



An open line of communication is essential, being able to openly and honestly vocalise your ideas, concerns, goals and frustrations play a huge role in building this solid relationship. 

Are you reliable, can you be depended upon? I can count on my trainers and they certainly can count on me. Your trainer is more than a coach, they are a mentor, and advisor, a therapist, and the bad guy and good guy all rolled into one. One thing they are not is a mind reader, so suck it up and start communicating.


Communication is not only about the ability to talk, but the ability to listen. Unfortunately in life, most people listen with the intention of responding instead of listening to understand. Effective communication leads to better understanding and therefore increased trust between trainers and athlete.


Personalised, you’re not just a number.

Building a strong bond with each individual athlete allows the sense of belonging and not simply a ticket to victory. This part of the trainer’s job description it a hard task in itself. Trainers and coaches provide extrinsic feedback on performance to allow for skill development. They provide encouragement and support. This allows you, as the athlete, to accomplish personal and professional goals. It develops the ability to be an intrinsically motivated person, improve your confidence and encourage you to take on challenges head on.

Now, don’t get my wrong, they are not your parents and will at no point baby you as this will not lead to success. I am also not saying that you can’t be successful without your trainer, but I can assure you will go further with a trainer by your side who you trust with your life. It is like one big jigsaw puzzle, all pieces play a part.


When your trainer gets to know you as an individual this provides the opportunity to develop strategies to get the most out of you. In turn this provides them with the knowledge and understandingof how to motivate you during certain stages of your fight prep.

Have you ever been extremely nervous or extremely hyped up and after one minute with your trainer, you’re all good to go. How do you think this is possible? They pay attention, get to know you as an individual and get those strategies down pat.


Both parties need to display certain characteristics such as patience, understanding and problem solving skills, but most importantly, observation in order to build trust.


Written by Yolanda Schmidt