Tips for Receiving Constructive Criticism
How do you respond to constructive criticism? Do you reject it outright or welcome it from coaches?
Why do some athletes reject corrections or constructive feedback from their coach?
Athletes fear receiving constructive criticism for several reasons:
- They feel they are negatively being judged.
- The criticism confirms some self-doubt they have about themselves.
- They have perfectionist standards.
- They fear they are letting down others.
- They are given feedback in an aggressive or disapproving tone.
Some athletes see the criticism as a list of everything they do wrong. In these instances, the feedback is dismissed or ignored. Other athletes view criticism as constructive or advice on how to improve their game.
Accepting and using feedback is a critical mental skill for athletes. When you develop this mental skill, feedback will not feel like an attack on your ability but like a suggestion on how to improve your performance.
However, not every coach or parent is skilled in how to provide feedback effectively. So finding the message in the criticism is up to you.
Here’s a practical example from the Boston Celtics. The Celtics had built an 18-point lead against the Golden State Warriors in the first half of Game 3 in the 2022 NBA Finals.
Boston built the lead by playing tough defense and controlling the ball on offense. The Celtics became reckless with the ball, committing foolish turnovers and allowing the Warriors to climb back into the game.
In the fourth quarter, Boston head coach Ime Udoka was fuming during a timeout. After the timeout, the Celtics collected themselves, regained their composure, and eventually won the game 116-100.
After the game, Boston guard Marcus Smart commented on how the team acted on the coach’s feedback and was not offended by the tone of the message.
SMART: “You want to know what you’re doing wrong so you can fix it. You can’t fix nothing if you don’t know what the problem is. So we definitely appreciate his honesty and his openness.”
Criticism can feel like an attack, but often there is a message that you can focus on and disregard the negative tone.
It is normal for your defense mechanism to kick in, but criticism can be helpful or, at least, the message within the criticism. Rather than throwing out the message due to the negative delivery and the person delivering the message, grab hold of the parts of the feedback that can help your game.
How to Use Constructive Criticism:
When you receive criticism, ask yourself three questions:
1. What is the message?
2. Does this message apply to me?
3. If yes, how can I use this feedback to improve my game?
And do this:
1. Communicate with the person giving you feedback. Clarify the message.
2. Challenge your defensiveness. Find out why are you bothered by receiving feedback?
3. Focus on the message itself, not how the message is delivered. How the message was given is not as important as the information.
4. Ask yourself if the feedback can help you and, if so, how you can apply it to your game.
Related Sports Psychology Articles
- The Mindset to Perform at a Higher Level
- Having Fun While Performing at Your Best
- The Importance of Mental Toughness
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