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Building Trust in Coaching Leadership: The Trust Equation = Competency, Consistency, Care + Agenda

Coaching is more than just drawing up plays or the development of skills. In fact, a leader’s ability to do those things well may not even matter if they cannot first build trust. Trust is the glue that binds a coach and their team. Trust creates an environment where it’s possible for players to take good risks, to grow, to communicate honestly, and ultimately to find their highest potential. This quick blog will cover how a coach can create trust using the following four essential pillars: competency, consistency, care, and agenda.

Competency - The Cornerstone of Trust

Competency is the bedrock upon which trust is built. Athletes look to their coach as a guide, mentor, and expert in their field. A coach's knowledge, experience, and ability to impart wisdom directly impact how much athletes trust them. Demonstrating a deep understanding of the sport, effective teaching methods, and a commitment to continuous learning reassures athletes that they are under the guidance of someone who knows the sport yet is still willing to be a lifelong learner.  

Communication is key in showcasing competency. A coach who can articulate strategies, provide constructive feedback, describe a vision of what they want, and address concerns with clarity instills confidence in their athletes. When players see their coach as a knowledgeable and reliable source, a trust bridge is framed, allowing for a strong coach-athlete connection.

Consistency - The Glue That Binds Trust

Consistency is the glue that holds the trust bridge together. Athletes crave stability and predictability in their coach's actions and decisions. A consistent approach, whether in training methods, communication style, or decision-making, establishes a sense of reliability and dependability. When athletes can anticipate how their coach will respond in various situations, a foundation of trust is reinforced. Be authentic to who you are as a coach and be consistent with it.

Consistency also extends to how a coach treats all their athletes. When players perceive that the same standards apply to everyone on the team, trust is more likely. It's a leader’s responsibility to maintain a consistent and fair environment where everyone feels seen and understands their role within the team dynamic.

Care - Developing Trust Through Genuine Connection

Beyond competency and consistency, care is the human touch that deepens the coach-athlete relationship. Demonstrating genuine concern for an athlete's well-being, both on and off the field/court, builds a bond that transcends the boundaries of the game. A coach who takes the time to understand their athletes as individuals, acknowledging their strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals, fosters a sense of belonging and trust.

Care is evident in both words and actions. Offering support during challenging times, celebrating successes, and being attuned to the emotional needs of athletes create a culture of empathy and trust. Athletes are more likely to open up, take appropriate risks, and give their full commitment when they feel genuinely cared for by their coach.

Agenda - Aligning Values for Mutual Trust

A shared agenda between coaches and athletes forms the final pillar of trust. Athletes need to know that they and their coach are on board with an agreed-upon set of core values — under the umbrella of individual skill development, team success, and/or personal growth. A transparent and collaborative approach in setting objectives, expectations, actions, and behaviors establishes a sense of unity and mutual commitment. This serves as compass for how the group knows if they’re collectively on target.

Open communication to start EVERY season, and then with periodic check-ins, about team goals, strategies, and individual roles ensures that everyone is on the same page. When athletes understand the coach's agenda and believe it aligns with their own aspirations, trust is the byproduct. This shared vision creates a sense of purpose and direction, reinforcing the understanding that everyone is working together towards a common achievement.

Conclusion - The Trust Equation 

The factor that differentiates average coaching from great coaching is the ability to create trust. Competency, consistency, care, and agenda form the pillars that support this vital connection between coaches and athletes. A coach who combines knowledge with reliability, genuine care, and shared values creates an environment where trust can thrive. This trust, once established, becomes the stimulus for peak performance, team cohesion, and a shared journey toward success.


Stuart Singer, M.Ed., and PsyD (ABD) is the Director of WellPerformance, a Mental Performance Coaching and Consulting practice, and the creator of the DoSo app . For more information regarding this topic, he can be contacted at or follow him on X: @wellperformance, or Instagram: @wellperformance

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