Handling Concerns or Criticisms
About Your Coaching
A concern about coaching conduct should not be interpreted as a criticism of you as a person. Rather, it is an opportunity to learn, reflect, and improve as a coach! What matters is how you receive the feedback and incorporate any lessons learned into your coaching practices.With that in mind, what do you do if another person expresses concerns about your coaching conduct?
1. Listen carefully. It is important that you listen to the concerned individual’s comments. Your stance should be “Help me understand your perspective.” It is important to listen to what is being said, respond to feelings, ask open-ended questions for verification, seek confirmation from the speaker about what you think you have heard, and try to give the speaker the feeling that he/she is being heard.
2. Understand. You should try to learn why the individual feels you have harmed them. Even if you don’t agree with the concern being expressed, it is important to understand the concern to prevent it from escalating or continuing in the future. Although you may not intend to use harmful behaviours, athletes may perceive the messages you send differently than you meant them to. As well, a variety of personal factors such as age, gender, cultural/ethnic background, and history of harm, may influence the way your coaching behaviours are viewed. Even if you did not intend to harm the athlete, it is important to correct your behaviour so that you do not continue to harm the athlete.
3. Self-reflect. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your coaching conduct as a whole.
4. Seek advice. It is often helpful to seek advice from a third party about your own conduct and potential avenues for change and reconciliation. Depending on the severity of the concern expressed, you may want to seek advice from another coach, formal advice from the sport organization, or legal advice from a legal expert.
5. Problem-solve. Given what you have learned from your conversation with the concerned individual and the advice received, what would improve the situation going forward? Try to implement the identified changes to the best of your abilities and seek support or further advice or education as needed.
6. Follow Up. It may help you to follow up with the concerned individual at a later date to ensure that he or she is satisfied with your present coaching conduct and that the previous situation, which was the basis of the concern, no longer applies.
How do you handle criticism about your own coaching?