Are You Wasting Time On Criticism?

Dale Carnegie said, “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” As a coach, do you play the fool or demonstrate character in how you interact with your players? Are you wasting your breath, time, and energy on criticism?

Criticism, Criticizing Athletes, Effective Feedback, Feedback, Coaching, Coaches, Communication, Wasting Time on Criticism, Criticize the Behavior not the Person, Making Corrections, Communicating with Athletes, Sport Psychology, Coach Education, Coach Development, Mental Toughness, Resilience, Team Culture, Culture Development, Personal Development, Mental Conditioning, Cognitive Performance, Mental Training, Mental Game, Mindset

Champions Don’t Criticize

The Seattle Seahawks have built a reputation for doing things differently. In the process, they’ve built a consistent contender who won the 2015 Super Bowl.

Feedback is also something they do differently. The Seahawks coaching staff doesn’t criticize players.

Head Coach Pete Carroll says, “We correct people by trying to discipline ourselves as coaches to correct them by telling them what exactly we would like to happen and not what they did wrong.”

Why not? Carroll said, “We don’t have time [to criticize]” The Seahawks don’t ask, ‘What are you doing? What were you thinking?’ or say, “That’s not how I said to do it.’

“We tell them exactly what we desire as quickly as we can instead of wasting airtime with criticism,” Coach Carroll said in Great Teams by Don Yeager.

Stop Wasting Time on Criticism

What does criticism actually accomplish? You punctuate a mistake. You teach a lesson. You vent your emotion. Is any of that truly necessary?

When you criticize, you are more likely to:

1. Waste time stating the obvious.

Athletes typically know when they’ve messed up. Even when an athlete doesn’t recognize a mechanical issue, telling her what she is doing wrong has limited utility. Don’t you want her to focus on what right looks like, not waste mental energy on the wrong technique

2. Cause athletes to shut down.

When coaches raise their voices and call attention to an athletes’ mistakes, it is likely an athlete will shut down. Communication ceases. Learning stops. The player may begin to play hesitant, and second guess their actions, which limits performance.

3. Erode the player-coach relationship.

Don’t get me wrong. When an athlete messes up, it needs to be addressed. The art is in the how.

Criticizing a player (even just their actions) is likely to yield little return. When a player withdraws from you (i.e., shuts down), this creates a gap in communication. Negativity fills most communication gaps. You are more likely to lose their trust, respect, and admiration by criticizing.

Instead, Make Your Feedback Productive 

Learn to communicate like the Seahawks coaching staff. Be quick to remind the player of the action you want them to do.

I even try to do this with my infant daughter. When she wants to drop food from her high chair I say, “Eat it,” or “Put it back on your tray.” Remember, “Don’t…” doesn’t work. So I avoid saying, “Don’t drop it on the floor!”

Here are 3 reminders to be disciplined in your feedback and stop wasting time on criticism:

  • Your athletes aren’t trying to make mistakes.
  • Athletes need you to be both supportive and demanding.
  • Focus your precious time and energy on what right looks like.

Discipline Yourself & Your Coaching Staff

Being overly critical of your athletes has no benefits. Rather than becoming disciplined and compliant, they become fearful and lose confidence. This isn’t a recipe for peak performance. Therefore, stop wasting time on criticism. Instead, encourage, empower, and teach your athletes fix mistakes, not dwell on them.

Question: Despite its ineffectiveness, why do so many coaches waste time on criticism?

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