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Managing the Critics

Coaches often find themselves as the subject of criticism. Even if they are respected and doing a great job, coaches still find themselves being constantly critiqued by those around them, whether they are players, other coaches, administrators, parents, community members, or the press. Instead of letting all of the opinions and expectations overwhelm you, an article on lists specific ways that you can use criticism to your advantage.

A common strategy is to ignore all critiques and tune out the outside noise. But that isn’t always the right answer, the article points out. Coaches who stay inside their own bubble and disregard other people’s comments, suggestions, or complaints are likely to have a hard time identifying where they can improve. Criticism doesn’t always come in a friendly form, but that doesn’t mean it is a personal attack. Instead of becoming frustrated or ignoring what people say, try to understand what they are actually trying to tell you and identify if there is an area where you need to get better.

Everyone has preferences as to how they would like to be criticized. You have likely seen this with your athletes: some respond better when you talk to them in private while others may be more motivated to improve when you address them in front of the team. In addition, most people would prefer that criticism is delivered in a calm and patient way, but that is rarely the case. When people criticize they have a tendency to inject their emotions and often yell or use harsh language. As a coach, it’s important to manage your emotions in order to communicate effectively with athletes.

Along the same lines, when you are the one being criticized, the article states  it’s important to remember that even if you don’t like the way the message is being delivered, there is likely something valuable to take from it. Instead of becoming offended, be patient and start a conversation. By opening up the communication you can better understand what is expected of you and why you are being criticized. And if you believe the criticism is unjust or unwarranted, you can express this rather than turning your back or shutting out the noise.

This may be more difficult when you feel the person providing the criticism is either beneath you or doesn’t understand your position. Especially when parents, community members, or members of the press are being critical, you may say to yourself that they don’t understand what they’re talking about and that they are too far away from what you are doing to see the reality.

While this may sometimes be true, it does not help to write off all these opinions completely. There could easily be a valuable lesson to learn from those outside of the team or athletic program because they are less likely to censor their opinions. Sometimes a candid opinion, while not always easy to digest, is exactly what you need to get a new perspective on your effectiveness as a coach.

Joseph Kennedy, a mental skills coach in the San Antonio area, uses the analogy of a quarterback and a wide receiver to explain how to effectively receive criticism.

“There is an unwritten rule in football for wide receivers: If it hits you in the hands you catch it,” Kennedy writes in the article. “Criticism can be looked at much the same way. You are the wide receiver, and the person criticizing you is the quarterback. We would love for criticism to be packaged and delivered just how we like it—just like a wide receiver would like a perfect pass thrown every time. We know that is unrealistic. Quarterbacks throw bad passes, and criticism is sometimes delivered by a person, in a place, or in a way that is upsetting to us.

“Instead of focusing on how it is being delivered or where is said, focus on catching whatever you can however it is thrown to you,” he continues. “Taking that perspective allows you to move beyond shutting down and ignoring what that person says and instead focus on the message. In doing so, you continue your growth and improvement.”

Click here to read the full article.

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