This article provided by Coaches Network
Whether you like it or not, as a coach, you are on a pedestal for everyone to see. Anyone watching sees your stumbles and mistakes. And increasingly, stakeholders will call you out for any miscues.
In the middle of a busy season with practices and games consuming all your time, it can be tempting to ignore criticism that comes your way and hope that it will eventually disappear. But that tactic can easily backfire. Coaches suggest that it’s best to face feedback head-on, with a strategy for responding.
Chuck Wilcoxen, Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track and Field Coach at Principia College, says it’s important to engage with anyone who is delivering criticism or negative feedback. “If someone is upset about something, sooner or later they have to get it out,” he says. “If they sit on it, it’s going to simmer longer, and that just makes them more upset, which isn’t good for you, and isn’t good for the program. Even if it’s the same parent again and again with things you don’t think are justified, you have to let the person be heard.”
And the number-one item of a good strategy is to always stay calm, even if the other person is not. “Getting mad is not productive whatsoever,” says Jim Long, Head Baseball Coach at Brenham (Texas) High School. “That can make you look worse than the person complaining, which you never want. You need to remember you’re dealing with people who, because of their emotions, are making ignorant decisions. When I think of it that way, these situations are a lot easier to deal with.”
For Karen Kunka, Head Volleyball Coach at North Central College, staying calm requires taking a step back. Rather than responding immediately, she sets up a meeting to discuss the complaint. “If you let a discussion go on in the heat of the moment, you can get backed into a corner with someone screaming at you,” she says.
Instead, Kunka likes to gain perspective on the situation and think through her solution, rather than being forced into a snap decision or appearing defensive. “You have to allow yourself to pull back from a situation a little bit,” she says. “I also like to have someone I can run things past, like an assistant coach, before I react.”
Wilcoxen takes a similar approach. “Don’t react when you’re having the initial discussion,” he says. “Hash things out by yourself when you’re not dealing with any feelings of defensiveness or anger. With a little perspective, you may even find that the person has an excellent point that will make you a better coach.”
In fact, Wilcoxen tries to learn from all feedback. “What may at first seem to be a petty complaint can actually be very valuable information,” he says. “For example, parents know things about their kids that coaches don’t. The first couple years I coached I was probably a little defensive, but the more open I was to others’ opinions, the more I learned. If a kid tells me they’re feeling great, and I find out from the parents that they’re not, that’s good information.”