Don't Criticize?
 
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Coach Kyle
(@coach-kyle)
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Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 3802
February 25, 2020 5:07 pm  

I recently cracked open "How to Win Friends and Influence People" again to give it a second read after about 15 years of rust. I figured I'd make threads about some of the more interesting advice. The first is to never criticize. The theory is that criticism makes people resent you. Obviously the book is written for making business connections, and this is probably great advice if you're trying to merely do that, but to some degree this is a big issue in football coaching as I see it. There was another piece of advice about teaching that I can't remember the source (something from psychology?) It basically said that you should always say 5 positive things to one negative thing, and that's similar advice.

There are plenty of ways you can ask a kid to do something without criticizing. You can merely tell them how to do something with no attitude or disappointment. Just omit the part where you told them beforehand that they've just done something wrong. This saves time. It also keeps them from thinking about the wrong thing (perhaps you've heard about the 'don't think about pink elephants adage). And it preserves a better atmosphere and creates a better attitude among all of the players. 

What I find difficult is doing this with adults that you have to work with. You often are asked to justify yourself to an adult because they want to be listened to so that they feel respected. As I sit here I realize that I have a big problem with this. I think perhaps what I ought to do is use a mirroring technique. This is where you repeat back exactly what the other person said. The only changes you make are for pronouns. Then from there you simply omit the criticism phase and jump straight to the part where you express what you want and your reasoning.

As an example, say I'm an assistant speaking with a HC. The HC doesn't want to use shotgun snapping. He thinks it's risky and dangerous. You repeat back to him, "You don't want to use shotgun snapping. It is risky and dangerous." From there the HC may give more reasoning beyond that and you may have to keep repeating, making sure that he feels heard. Once he's finished with his reasoning, and you're finished repeating, then you can give some reasoning of your own, and maybe a little flattery. "You're right to think what you think. Those are good points. I like shotgun snapping because it puts the QB at a better angle so that he can run if we want him to, which frees up one more blocker for the offense." Notice that I didn't say "but", nor did I give any directly contradicting negative points about between the legs snapping. Hopefully he's more receptive because of the way you presented it to him, and once he agrees with a point or two of yours, you can hit him with a more controversial point like, "The shotgun snap puts the QB further back so that even if he drops the ball he is more likely to recover it, unlike the between-the-legs snap which can have the ball fumble forward into the defender's backfield."

Deaths while walking 4,743Deaths from football 12


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coachstu123
(@coachstu123)
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Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 15
March 5, 2020 12:02 pm  

Not disagreeing with anything you just wrote, however, I've found that when I have to actually worry about how I am addressing kids and coaches because of their own peculiarities, that is not going to lead to a good situation.  I have had great success with just being up front, right at the start, by telling the kids, parents, and other coaches that we are going to be intense, there will be some criticism and that they should never take it personally.  We are all here for one goal and that is to get better.  I've found that if you are consistent, whether you're a yeller or Mr. Rogers type, you can get by with anything as long as those around you see you as fair, consistent and selfless.  And at the end of the day you have their backs and will do what you need to do to protect them.  They have to see that.  I'm a huge proponent of creating a bunker mentality with my kids.  Mostly because I'm good at it and because I love the all for one one for all vibe.  A chip on the shoulder is always a big motivator.  

In the end I really don't think whether or not you criticize is an issue, unless that's all you do and have nothing else to offer.  Kids take criticism just fine as long as it's fair and as long as there is praise for doing things correctly.


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