Young Athletes Must Understand That Criticism Is Part of Teaching Process

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Young Athletes Must Understand That Criticism Is Part of Teaching Process


Byline: Bob Frisk

Nobody likes to be criticized.

When somebody approaches you with what they say is "constructive criticism," you probably take a step back, roll your eyes and think, "I don't need this."

You are not eager to hear what they have to say.

"Criticism" is generally regarded as a derogatory word, and that's unfortunate because criticism is necessary for teaching.

In my early years on the job, I was very sensitive about criticism over what this newspaper was trying to accomplish or the "slant" of stories we had written. I would get flustered with an angry caller, my voice would rise, and I would frantically try to defend our position at the Herald.

Maybe I was like some of these media types today, print and electronic, who can dish it out hot and heavy on a regular basis but can rarely handle any criticism or suggestions in return.

It's the "I'm never wrong" mentality that unfortunately is found in my newspaper profession and really hits its peak in talk radio.

I never slammed down the phone on a caller, but I had phones slammed down on me because people would insist we were ignoring schools or sports and wouldn't wait for any calm discussion on the subject.

I will say this about the value of quiet e-mails that have taken over so much of today's correspondence to newspapers. The e-mail message may, indeed, be very hostile, but it's not anything like a shouting caller or having a phone slammed down.

As I got older, I understood better that criticism is neither good nor bad. Everything depends on whether you learn something or are so upset that you totally reject that valuable lesson.

Coaches of young athletes face a tough job. They know that teaching often means criticizing.

The purpose of criticism should be constructive, but - and these are very important points - it must be handled in a manner that is clear, honest, sensitive and appropriate for the age of the child.

Kids can be very thin-skinned, and they often will reject a coach's criticism as simply a way to demean. They don't look at it as a valuable teaching tool.

Athletes hear everything coaches have to say, including all the praise, but I guarantee they hear criticism a lot louder.

Here's something to think about today: How many positive comments from a coach does it take to overcome the impact of just one negative comment?

I don't know the answer, but I might start at 10 and work up.

Coaches simply can't treat everybody the same way. That sounds right, but it's not realistic. …

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