The End of a Coaching Relationship – Who’s at Fault?

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When you are coaching someone, you are in a relationship. Like personal relationships, professional relationships do not always work out. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing. An issue that many coaches have is that they expect every client to work out perfectly and when they don’t, the coach views it as a failure on their part.


To be clear, there are reasons for a coaching relationship to end that are the fault of the coach. Reasons for this include the following and can be summed up as being ‘unprofessional.’

  • Chronic lateness
  • Not returning calls/emails in a timely manner
  • Not taking into consideration contraindicated movements/exercises
  • Acting outside your scope of practice and knowledge
  • Rude, inappropriate language (physical and verbal)
  • Retaining a client even though you are not getting results for them

While some clients will tell you honestly why they’re firing you (“I’m sick of you looking at your abs in the mirror every 5 minutes!”), most will not. Therefore, they likely will make up an excuse so as to not hurt your feelings. Aside from personality differences, take a good, hard look at your coaching practice to see if you are acting unprofessionally in one or more areas and if so, look to resolve your behavior immediately.


I’ll admit, it feels a bit odd to even write this sub-heading, ‘It’s Their Fault.’ However, after over 20 years of coaching clients, I’ll be honest – clients are sometimes at fault. By far, the most common reason for a client to find fault in their coach is a lack of results. Now, a coach can certainly be at fault for a client’s lack of results, no doubt about it. However, if a client isn’t holding up their end of the relationship (i.e., following the program as intended), they will often negate their lack of program adherence and put the blame on the coach.

Another common reason that a client is at fault is scheduling – which may or may no be within their control. If a client late cancels or is constantly rescheduling their sessions, you cannot run a business this way.


Like personal relationships, personality is a major factor in the longevity of a coaching relationship. As noted previously, this isn’t a good or bad thing – it just has to with if one person’s personality is compatible with another’s.


As a coach, ending a relationship with a client is not a bad thing – so long as it’s done with your client’s best interest in mind. Additionally, you must be honest with your client as to why you are ending the relationship. One of the most common reasons is because the coach is not getting results for a client and they do not foresee any way they will be able to help the client. An example of this would be if you took on a beginner running client and were able to assist them a great deal. However, as the client got faster and became more advanced, you were not able to progress them past a certain point. In the scenario, the professional thing to do would be honest with the client and tell them that you reached a point where you can no longer help them all that much and that they would be better off working with a coach who works with more advanced runners.

In this example, you are technically ‘firing’ a client but it is with their best interest in mind. If you were to continue working with the client with no perceivable results, it would likely create a negative relationship between you and the client – largely because you were acting disingenuously and putting your needs (i.e., money) over that of your client’s (results).


Truth be told, I passed along a client who enjoyed working with me and was seeing good results with me. Why? I felt like each hour long session took three hours! This particular client never wanted to talk and for me personally, it made me feel a bit uncomfortable and made the time drag. I realize that the client preferred not to talk during the session and as such, they should not have to. However, because I began to dread the sessions and therefore the days that I had to work with this individual, it made more sense to pass the client along to another coach that didn’t mind if the client did not talk during the session. Remember, your energy and well-being are important!


So long as you are acting in your client’s best interest and focusing on your happiness at the same time, ending a coaching relationship is not a bad thing. Most importantly, do not view the end of a coaching relationship as a failure.




Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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